Not Good, but Not Bad either

In RT’s recent post, he asks us to consider the relative value of truth as obtained from Church authority vs. everyone else in the world (combined). Here, I would like us to consider the threadjack that has recently sort of developed in that thread. The threadjack regards birth control and how it has been preached in the twentieth century.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, birth control was apparently the modern equivalent of abortion (in fact, were these things distinguished back then, oh historians?). In any case, it was considered an act that put one’s soul in jeopardy with God. Today, not so much. The General Handbook of Instructions counsels the husbands and wives make their own decisions regarding this, in consultation with the Lord. It also notes that sex is meant to bring husband and wife closer to together, not just to produce bodies for incoming spirit children.

However, it is clear that the Brethren aren’t too thrilled with the lowering birth rate amongst the Mormons. We continue to receive counsel to not put off childbearing for schooling, career, etc. President Packer recently suggested that the drop in missionary numbers has more to do with the drop in bodies than the raising of the bar. Clearly this is a concern for the Brethren (at least in the West; I have no reason to assume that our birth rates do anything but mirror local conditions). So, while birth control is clearly no longer a gross, celestial-glory-risking sin, the Brethren also clearly are concerned with it as a trend.

How do you think the Brethren should counsel when they see a trend that they believe leads to bad places, but that is not currently considered a sin? This question is not meant to counsel the Brethren, but rather to engage in a thought experiment to see what you think you would do in their place. How would you counsel the Saints regarding things that aren’t good, but aren’t bad, either?


  1. I should say my opinion, which is that I think they first take it to the Lord to see if they are correct in seeing this trend leading somewhere bad and, if they fears are affirmed, they counsel against the trend. Thus we have talks on earrings and other minutiae. I think.

  2. Mondo Cool says:

    “Brother and Sister, you have four choices here: a Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial, and an Outer Darkness choice. Please prayerfully study it out in light of wise counsel, your own experience and learning and follow the admonition of the Spirit.”

  3. Norbert says:

    “Brother and Sister, you have four choices here: a Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial, and an Outer Darkness choice. Please prayerfully study it out in light of wise counsel, your own experience and learning and follow the admonition of the Spirit.”

    Are you serious? Are you saying they should identify exactly what those choices are regarding a specific principle? Is that possible? Can you do that for birth control?

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I think the Church should do exactly what it is doing.

    That is, first, be aware of the problem. The Q12 is sort of like a Board of Directors. Sustainable growth is desirable for the organization; decreasing birth rates lessen sustainable growth. It is proper for them to notice this and be concerned about it, and I think they in fact have noticed and are concerned.

    But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the response ought to be to demonize BC, turn it into a sin and try to regulate the situation with guilt, and I think our leaders have learned that lesson and are quite correct in no longer equating BC with sin. A better approach would be to extol the virtues of family and childrent in a positive way, and no doubt the Church does this. This may not have the same positive effect on the numbers as demonizing BC would, but there are other, in my view more substantial costs to the demonizing BC route, and I think the choice not to do that anymore is the correct choice.

    There is a tendency in this Church to want to try to influence behavior by guilt. Guilt can be an effective motivator, but it is also subject to abuse. In the case of BC, I think the Church has successfully moved past that stage. I never felt guilty for using BC, and that is a positive development in Church life, I think.

  5. Norbert says:

    I would do the following:

    1. Identify the actual sin and explain the gospel principle that the sin violates.

    2. Explain that there is behaviour which in itself is not sinful, but might lead us to sin.

    3. Remind people that there is a distinction between actual sinning and behavior which might lead to sin, and to be aware of both.

    I think they basically do 1 & 2 already; 3 probably isn’t seen as necessary, but it is a point of confusion among some members.

  6. Julie M. Smith says:

    It seems to me that the dilemma could be avoided by emphasizing the duty to pray over childbearing decisions.

  7. I hope the general authorities will more clearly distinguish between statements of doctrine and statements of policy or recommendation. And, that they will explain changes, not just quietly make them as if they had always been.

    Few things have challenged my faith in the principle of strict obedience as much as the change in birth control pronouncements over the 30 years of our marriage (and now into our children’s marriages). We paid strict attention then to the letters received by bishops advising us essentially to think of the spirits unborn before thinking of ourselves, and counseling against anything other than rhythm to prevent pregnancy. Now that counsel is reversed in the current handbook, at least in its practical applications.

    It is disconcerting that I cannot given our children the same counsel we were given without violating the most recent handbook statements.

    The earlier letters were couched as doctrine, within a Plan of Salvation context, and birth control decisions were characterized as good v. evil – with the Plan or against it. At least, that’s how they sounded to us then.

    I still respect pronouncements from the 1st Presidency, but I regard them as more transitional than I did before. It has influenced my reading of the Proclamation on the Family and other recent statements. Now I fully expect some of those positions to change in the next 30 years.

  8. I agree with Julie, parents should prayfully consider this. Besides, what can the Q12 do? They say have a bunch of children and avoid birth control, then they say birth control is ok and sex is a way to become closer to your spouse. Are they going to go back and say sex is to make babies and birth control is a sin? Then in 20 years when we have enough missionaries sex will become fun again instead of a being God’s tool?

    You’d have people freaking out just like they did when the Word of Wisdom switched gears.

  9. I don’t necessarily think they’ll do anything different than they’re doing right now. They’ll continue to put out wink-wink-nudge-nudge “won’t someone think of the unborn children?” letters and keep emphasisizing family. And leave it for people to pick up the hints. I think they know if they did more than that it could be damaging to the church.

    I personally think the whole BC and the lower birthrate is a good challenge for the church to have. At times the church has relied too heavily on growth by assuming most of the people born into the church will stay in it. Now not having the assumed growth will cause some serious interspection. And that’s always a good thing.

  10. I’m assuming my comment hit the filter because I said the S word, so I’ll modify my post.

    Anon, the great thing is, the Church can reverse position and say BC is evil and s-x is only for procreation. Then in twenty years when we have enough missionaries, s-x can be fun again.

    Sarcastic, but it’s what you’re asking for, right? Of course they’d have to deal with an uproar similar to the one they had when the position on the Word of Wisdom was modified. These are the trials that come along with continuing revelation.

  11. I agree with Ronito that it’s an interesting challenge. I feel new blood and new perspectives can only be a good thing, so I welcome more growth coming from conversions.

  12. When I was a missionary and my companion was doing something that wasn’t necessarily a sin, something in a grey area with regard to mission rules, I exercised enthusiasm for the things we were supposed to do, and did what I could to help my companion gain the same enthusiasm. There were circumstances where I compromised on those grey areas to accomplish a greater good. For example, in one of my areas I played a game of chess with my companion each night during our first few weeks in order to calm him down and help us both relax. His previous companion had been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a recent convert of the opposite sex, and we had to clean up the mess, which was extremely stressful.

    There were other times when I tried to lay down the law. In some ways, it was less effective, but in other aspects, it worked better. Sometimes, though, I found myself coming down pretty hard on things that weren’t explicitly bad in themselves, such as wearing sunglasses while proselyting. It wasn’t the sunglasses themselves that I thought was wrong, but that’s the way it came across.

    As a district leader the last two transfers, some of the missionaries got really upset with me and called me hypocritical. I was doing my best not to be, but I suppose if you were looking hard at every one of my faults, and all of the faults in my leadership, you could have found some hypocrisy. But in what I was trying to do, and in what I was trying to teach, there was no changing.

  13. I think that with BC the brethren realized that they were fighting a losing fight. There was no way to enforce it and they were getting into enough problems already with occasional bishop’s asking intrusive questions regarding married sexuality. This may be a manifesto issue, where the surrounding conditions made impossible the continuation of the doctrine as it was then understood.

    But let’s not forget earrings. There has been much ado made regarding the counsel given regarding earrings. If we see it as a fence around a sin, does it make the counsel easier to swallow?

  14. Julie M. Smith says:


    I’m not sure how the BC issue could be a fence but maybe I am just having a failure of imagination?

  15. Kristine says:

    HP/JDC–I’m *extremely* uncomfortable with the notion that the Brethren change their teachings when enough members are disobedient. If God hasn’t changed his mind, aren’t they still obligated to convey his message to us???

  16. Julie M. Smith says:


    In a sense I am too but I think it also happens quite a bit. We’d all be living the law of consecration if we could/would and not have the law of tithing. If we could be trusted to take care of each other without being told to, there would be no HT/VT. Etc.

  17. Julie M. Smith says:

    BTW, I’m not sure that I agree that BC falls into this category, I’m just speaking hypothetically.

    I also think there is a huge potential for trouble whenever anyone says, “Well, the prophets only tell us X because we can’t handle Y, but you really should be doing Y.”

  18. I am actually glad that in general counsel seems to be moving back towards the “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves” school of things. I think this shift can especially be seen in Elder Oaks’ talk a few years ago about the difference between “doing and becoming”. The point should be the we should be trying to become like God in all that we do. Something is a sin if it takes us away from becoming like good. If looked at this way, using birth control to prevent children for selfish reasons is a sin, because we are not becoming like God if we are becoming selfish. If we use birth control to space and plan our families, along with prayer and guidance from the Spirit, I don’t think it’s use is a sin in that case. Contraception itself is not sinful.

    I think that a lot of the anti-birth control rhetoric in the past was either a reflection of or a reaction to trends in society in general. When the pill came out in the early 60s there was a great uproar about how its use would encourage casual sex (and it certainly did) and stuff like that. Then there was the whole “zero population” growth trend in the seventies that the Bretheren felt a need to react to. Earlier in the twentieth century it was the use of contraception for eugenics. (There was a good article in Dialogue a few years ago about the history of BC policy in the church).

    I had a friend who got married young and then proceeded to wait three years to have children with her husband. At the time, I judged her to be selfish. Now I feel bad about my harsh judgement of her. Her standing before the Lord in that matter is not my place to judge. I have used contraception at various times during my marriage and never felt like I was doing something wrong. When we first married I still had a year and a half left on my bachelor’s degree. My husband and I both prayed and felt that I should finish my degree before having children, so we used contraception for the first year of my marriage. My first child was born a few months shy of our second anniversary. I have other friends who felt strongly that they shouldn’t use birth control, and had kids within 9 or 10 months of marriage. And they are happy with their choices. Personally, I think the option to choose for ourselves based on faith is the position most in line with God’s plan. Sure giving people the option has potential consequences such as more people making wrong, selfish choices. But are we really sure that having smaller families is always a wrong, selfish, and therefore sinful choice?

  19. For some historical context, see Justin’s ever important post on the topic.

  20. I like the approach that is taken now, but worry that we aren’t always really listening as a people. I think the doctrine that is taught would encourage couples to seek God’s direction and to unselfishly open their hearts and homes to as many children as they can care for (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.) I do think that this requires us to be even more sincere in our questions of the Lord than perhaps if we were ‘commanded in all things’ on this topic. The fact that the Brethren express concern about how on the average we aren’t where we need to be (birth rates are too low) suggests to me that we as church members might have a bit more heart-searching and sincere asking to do. I for one know how difficult this issue is, and know that each situation is different, so we really can’t judge each other on this point, but we can judge ourselves and make sure that what we are doing is right with God.

    HP/JDC–I’m *extremely* uncomfortable with the notion that the Brethren change their teachings when enough members are disobedient.

    I struggle with this, too, but I think that as “true doctrine, understood, changes behavior faster than talking about behavior will change behavior” I think it’s important that we look to the doctrine and not expect specifics to define our behavior (or the consequences thereof). This was some of what I was getting at in the other post. I think Elder Oaks recent talk on divorce is instructive on this point. Because of the hardness of our hearts, the celestial standard is not held over us to condemn everyone who divorces. There is the recognition that we “aren’t there yet” and so there is allowance made…and I assume this is for our benefit, but not without the sad reality that it’s not because suddenly the doctrine has changed but because we aren’t ready for the celestial specifics. This is why I suggested that I wonder if the same kind of situation is going on here. I really get the sense that, as a people, if we *really* got the doctrine and commandment re: multiplying and replenishing, there might not be so much reduction in birth rate and our leaders might not have to be expressing their concern.

    So, again, I like the approach that they take, but it requires us to really listen to the doctrine and really go to the Lord with open hearts seeking His guidance. Our hearts matter an awful lot, I think. (I hope.)

  21. I don’t know that I would have done anything different than our leaders did. It was smart to proceed with caution on the birth control. I think sometimes only time will bear out if something is good or bad. I’m sure glad the prophets nay-sayed illegal drugs because I think time has borne out that meth does no one any good. Conversely, birth control has an arguably positive effect on some people and a negative effect on rarely anyone. I think birth control is a good thing (not just a neutral thing as has been suggested), but I think proceeding with caution when advising the masses is smart.

  22. RE: “birth control was apparently the modern equivalent of abortion (in fact, were these things distinguished back then, oh historians?)”

    This answer has good information on the subject.

    To quote,

    Believe it or not, birth control was not always legal. In fact, the large majority of the quotes you will hear were all before birth control was legal. The LDS church strongly advocates obeying the law of the land. The use of birth control flew directly in the face of that doctrine.

    During the WWII era, birth control became synonymous with population control, a philosophy the church opposes on every level. For many years, this was what birth control was. Is it any wonder that the church opposed this? . . .

    [Another] big reason was that it wasn’t safe. . . . Can you understand why the authorities of a church that so strongly supported the creation of a family would come out against something that had the potential to sterilize the women of the church?

    As birth control methods improved, thoughts about it changed.”

    I thought early birth control methods were essentially a form of abortion, acting after fertilization, but googling “history of birth control” seems to indicate that non-abortive methods were available as early as the 1830s. Maybe someone else has more information on this subject.

  23. OK, so here’s a scripture that would suggest that sometimes words from prophets are more harsh when need be, so maybe we don’t need the harshness as much now? Who knows…I am just brainstorming different possibilities for why changes took place.

    Enos 1:22-23:
    And there were exceedingly many prophets among us. And the people were a stiffnecked people, hard to understand.
    And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things–stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.

  24. I don’t think we should look at this as a good vs. bad sort of topic. There are too many individual circumstances involved, and no one person can make this decision; i.e. I can’t have ten kids just because I want to. I have to make this decision in partnership with my wife.

    The link Portia provided is very informative. Clearly BC itself has changed over time which, in part, allowed for a change in the Church’s attitude toward it.

    The instruction likely did not change because the members were in mass disobedience. As m&m pointed out, traditionally, the answer to that is more harshness (or exceeedingly great plainness of speech, if you prefer), if the commandment is an important one.

    Rather, the reason the instruction changed is that the brethren found that they could trust the members to counsel with God on this one. Many members still have large families, some very large, for which they are very blessed, but the decision to do that is best left in the hands of the husband and wife. We really don’t want people having children only out of guilt.

    Are we, as a church, living this principle perfectly? Probably not. But then I doubt we’re living any principle perfectly. Hence the need for continued counsel from the Brethren. Does that mean the decision needs to be taken out of our hands and made into a commandment not to practice any form of BC? No. We’re not that far off the mark, IMO. We just need to be reminded from time to time to have as many children as we can safely and securely handle. The decision as to how many that is is still best left in our hands, in counsel with God.

  25. Ugly Mahana says:

    MCQ, well stated.

  26. No one has mentioned it, it is not uncommon for a couple to have legitimate medical reasons to use birth control. Wouldn’t it be tragic to have a high birthrate at the expense of many womens’ good health? A common pattern 30-40 years ago was several very closely spaced children (no contraceptives), followed by sterilization of a still very young mother who was beyond maxed out, with 6 children under the age of 9 or something. I think in some cases, people may not have had their children “in wisdom and order” and may have been trying to run faster than they had strength. I think most of us have seen that, haven’t we?

  27. MCQ, I’m happy to say I agree with you.

    E., this was something I mentioned on the other thread, and has been an exception included in counsel given by leaders for a century.

  28. And I will add, MCQ, that sometimes what WE want and what the LORD instructs will be different. I wanted more children, but we actually to this point have been told not to pursue having more, I’m assuming because of my health reasons. This is a hard topic for me for that reason, because I don’t like the fact that we can’t just bring more children to our family without restriction. But I’m grateful that we can go to the Lord and really find out what is best. And I keep checking in with heaven to make sure that is still the right decision. This to me is the bottom line. We know the doctrine, and so we go to the Lord to find out the specifics of how He wants us to live that doctrine best, considering all the factors in our lives, both those we can see and those we don’t. Sometimes we will be guided to have more children when it makes no sense (or surprised, as happens to many of us!), and other times we might be told no when we want to go ahead.

  29. m&m: We’re in the same situation. Cancer has prevented us having more children. People who don’t know that often assume we stopped for selfish reasons. another reason why I like what you said about not judging each others’ decisions in this area.

  30. I am very grateful to have access to BC so my body can heal after having C-sections. For me spacing makes the difference between being able to handle children and not being able to. At the same time I think the use of BC and especially sterilization can be very problematic. Sure, there are many people out there who cannot have as many children as they would want. It is important not to judge them. However, I know of many women in the church who are very vocal about not wanting to be bothered with more than a couple of children. I am saddened and even a little disturbed to hear the disdain in their voices for their children.

  31. Hrm. I suppose that what I was trying to get across was the idea that was conveyed in the byu board thing: that culture changed and we changed with it. I assume that many people were using birth control during the seventies, when it was frowned upon, so I assume that people had decided that this wasn’t really that big a deal prior to the change occuring in the GHI. That said, I do realize that we are a top-down church and I assume that the change in the GHI was a combination of revelation and people who didn’t think it was a big deal coming into places of influence.

    I can understand why you have a problem with the way I phrased this. But there is precedent. This happens all the stinking time in the OT. God changes his mind quite frequently and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if on occasion it is because we aren’t listening. I also agree that usually this results in a rebuke, but sometimes the Lord recognizes that we simply weren’t ready (as Julie suggested).

  32. chantywa says:

    I believe it would a great benefit if the Brethern would council with women regarding the issue of BC (perhaps they do). Based on LDS teaching, a woman’s divine stewardship is motherhood, thus, she should be the one, after discussing the matter w/ her husband and then taking it to the Lord, to make the final decision. In my experience, women tend to know their bodies — as well as their mental, spiritual and emotional capacities — best. It is in matters such as this that I long for the influence of our Heavenly Mother.

  33. JDC: Who are you talking to?

  34. MCQ, I’m sorry to hear about your cancer. I understand about feeling judged…I wonder about that a lot. If it ever comes up, I’m very forthright about my desires because I care that people know that this all matters to me, but that our circumstances haven’t allowed that.

    However, I know of many women in the church who are very vocal about not wanting to be bothered with more than a couple of children.

    I have run into this, too…that some people see the “change” in counsel (fewer specifics, but same doctrine) as meaning that suddenly it’s OK to do whatever they want. Of course no one will come after them for such a decision, but in my mind one of the key purposes for the counsel at any time was for OUR benefit, for our ETERNAL happiness. If we make decisions only based on what we see or know temporally, we might end up making a mistake we could regret. Again, it all boils down to heart, motives, priorities. And I think our leaders and the Lord expect us to hear and respond, not to be commanded in all things. Ideally, anyway. :)

  35. m&m: my wife’s cancer. And thank you.

    Of course no one will come after them for such a decision

    I don’t know any of those women. Maybe they only say things like that in front of other women(?)Men often joke that they want as few children as possible, but I think it really is a joke. While it’s true that people with such attitudes will not lose their temple recommend, if they are listening, they will see that approaching this decision selfishly or without prayerfully counseling with the Lord is wrong and will lead to unhappiness.

  36. When I was younger, I understood the counsel of the Church to be that birth control was strongly discouraged unless required to preserve the health of the mother. That is, the presumption was that parents should have as many children as health permitted. The question for God wasn’t, “In light of all our circumstances, should we have a child?,” but rather, “Can the mother’s health tolerate another child?”

    I think the new understanding is that it is proper for a couple to take all factors into account in counseling with the Lord about the number and spacing of children. There is no “ideal size” Church family.

    I suspect that some of the reduction in the average birthrate in the Church is because couples are taking many factors into account (not just the mother’s health) when counseling with God. Perhaps the decline in birthrate among practicing Latter-day Saints is perfectly consistent with God’s intentions in inspiring the modification of the counsel.

  37. Perhaps the decline in birthrate among practicing Latter-day Saints is perfectly consistent with God’s intentions in inspiring the modification of the counsel.

    Except for the fact that our leaders are saying that it is a problem they are concerned about….

  38. Norbert says:

    I wonder how much the church’s posish on BC is influenced by the shift to a worldwide church. Talking about raising up families of 12-18 children in semi-rural Utah plays very differently than it does in urban Ghana, China, Russia, Brazil…

  39. MCQ,
    I always thought you were a man, but somehow the comment about the cancer confused me. But thanks for seeing the sentiment behind the mistake. :)

  40. MCQ,
    Sorry I was address comments by m&m and Kristine about my saying that the the shift in BC discussion was to some degree influenced by changes in the members’ attitude.

  41. Erg. “Sorry, I was addressing…”

  42. How do you think the Bretheren should counsel . . .?

    In the sepcific case of birth control, why not address the real issue (declining family sizes) rather than a peripheral issue (use of contraceptives)?

    A couple could avoid artificial birth control methods completely, and still have few or no children. Conversely, a couple could use artificial birth control judiciously and still have a large family.

    This is along the lines of the many other “teach correct principles” comments above.

  43. “Except for the fact that our leaders are saying that it [declining birthrate] is a problem they are concerned about….”

    With all respect, I think it is more precise to say that “some of” or “a few of” our leaders have said, on a few occasions, that they are concerned about the declining birthrate. There certainly has been no statement signed on to by the FP and 12 expressing concern about a declining birthrate.

  44. In the sepcific case of birth control, why not address the real issue (declining family sizes) rather than a peripheral issue (use of contraceptives)?

    I think that is exactly what they have been doing.

    DavidH: You are exactly right, good point. That does raise the question, however, about when one of the brethren is speaking for the Church as a whole, and when he is speaking only for himself. I don’t think that question has a clear answer.

  45. DavidH,
    I’m not one to think that there has to be a signed, sealed deal from all 15 prophets for us to listen carefully (or be responsible to pray/act regarding what they say). Particularly when counsel is repeated, I think their words deserve careful consideration.

  46. Durnit, DavidH. There is either a vast correlation conspiracy or there isn’t. ;)

    I have heard two of the twelve recently raise this in public fora. I think that that it can be definitively said that, even if this isn’t the 12’s number 1 concern, it is not something that the 12 minds mentioning as important.

  47. Of course the 12 think it’s important, they’re losing the easily assumable membership of those being born into it. I don’t think that it’s up for debate whether or not the 12 think it’s an important thing.

    However, does this mean that someone with 2 kids is somehow less enlightened than those with 8? I highly doubt that. I do agree that many people put off having kids for the wrong reasons. But at the same time that’s their problem, and the 12 can only advise, which they have and continue to do.

    In the end, I’d just as soon have the church out of my bedroom for my tastes. Which is I feel the reason for that whole shift in instructions to Bishops a few years back about not asking about that sort of stuff. I’m one of those teach good principles and let the people govern themselves.

  48. However, does this mean that someone with 2 kids is somehow less enlightened than those with 8? I highly doubt that.

    This isn’t about headcount, it’s about heart.

  49. Steve Evans says:

    m&m, no offense, but what in the world is that supposed to mean? It’s like you didn’t read ronito’s comment at all.

  50. Steve Evans says:

    Sorry, that came off as rather harsh. I must be one of those ISRTs I keep reading about.

  51. Steve,
    you don’t have a harsh bone in your body. Wow, I almost got through that with a straight face!

  52. cj you know I got nothin’ but love for you man. Next time I’m in town the Cyclones tickets are on me.

  53. Firstly, it doesn’t matter what is “considered a sin.” Sin is anything that leads away from God. If birth control leads away from God, it is a sin. If not, then it isn’t. And that is only for Christ and the person in question to determine.

    Secondly, the GAs could say one thing to the general Church in one era and another in another era depending on the prevailing attitudes. If those of the 50s were utilizing birth control unrighteously, it would generally be a sin and if those now are utilizing birth control with the guidance of the Spirit and a true desire to follow God’s will, than it isn’t.

    I think the application of Truth is a balance, and thus righteous advice may seem to change in order to maintain that balance in the hearts and minds of the people.

    I don’t understand ronito’s comment, personally. What, exactly, does the leadership have to gain from increased membership? More commiserates to lead this group of wandering sheep? I see no personal benefit to them in the classic sense of “benefit.” They gain no money, they gain no real prestige by heading a larger church. M&M’s point is valid – it isn’t about how many children you have, it’s about willingness to follow the Lord.

  54. m&m –
    I don’t mean to be rude, but everything you have said on this thread boils down to the fact that you believe if people were really being sincere in their family planning, they would have larger families.

    I mean, if God told you to have lots of kids, that must be what he would tell everyone who is really listening.

    I hear this reasoning all the time with members. Why is it so hard to believe that Heavenly Father might be ‘endorsing’ smaller families? I mean look at the world we live in, logistically, having more than a few kids is nearly impossible in most places in the world, including most of this country. Property, education, transportation, health care…these things are not what they were 30 years ago. We are limited by so much more than what we used to be, and we are still ‘above average’ family-sizes compared to the rest of society.

    I think the brethern should just teach how great it is to have kids, how they can contribute to our growth and becoming exalted…but they should do as they are and stay out of personal decisions.

  55. Veritas – I think what she’s saying (and I may be wrong) is that people who choose to have small families without truly consulting the Lord are not sincere in their willingness to follow the counsel of the Lord’s mouthpiece. In fact, I think she said quite the opposite to your accusation – that it isn’t about number.

    And I’ve seen that “stay out of personal decisions” argument before. It always strikes me as silly. The Church is only supposed to deal with public decisions, now?

  56. Mark IV says:


    I’m not sure how to understand you. Life has gotten easier than it was 50 years ago, wouldn’t you agree? Food is cheaper, clothing is cheaper, health care is better, transportation is easier. I don’t agree with your assertion that having more than a few children is impossible.

    I agree completely with your point that the church should teach that children are a positive good in themselves, and that couples should carefully consider their roles as prospective parents.

  57. Mark IV says:


    With respect, the decision as to the number of children a couple should bring into the world has been declared a private decision by Gordon B. Hinckley, and one where he has said that the church should not intervene.

  58. True, Mark, but the leadership declaring that something is a personal decision is vastly different from the “stay out of my business” tenor that such arguments typically take. To me, every word of counsel from the Church interferes in my private life. It’s the purpose of religion to do so.

  59. Mark IV says:


    OK, I see what you mean, I think.

    To me, every word of counsel from the Church interferes in my private life. It’s the purpose of religion to do so.

    Hmmm, I’m not sure I would say “interferes in”. Maybe something like “potentially touches”.

    And, regardless of what other religions might see as their purpose, I think Mormonism foresees the time when we are all prophets.

  60. I really like the general tenor of this thread, but I agree with SliverRain. I want religion to be in my business – at the very least by teaching me correct principles and, in some cases, by forbidding specific practices. I like the way things are being handled right now very much.

    More directly, we can’t use “Stay out of my bedroom” with ANY degree of legitimacy. I am very glad that BC now is left in our hands, and that Bishops are told explicitly to quit asking about sexual specifics, but “Husbands, don’t abuse your wives” includes our bedrooms. Defining marriage as a heterosexual union includes our bedrooms. Although they don’t get into specific practices, many of the foundation principles of the Church have implications within our bedrooms.

  61. Silver,
    I know it’s easy to think I’m being overly cynical. But bare with me. I know that studies show that the church is one of the fastest growing churches in the US. However, studies also show that we have the highest rate of turnover rate of new converts (ergo the whole emphasis on doing better at fellowshiping new members and rightly so). So with a good growth, but a high turnover rate and a declining member birthrate you’d better bet they’d concerned.

    It poses a problem of sustainable growth. What do the bretheren stand to gain? It’s simple. If you sincerely believe this is the true church , which the brethren obviously do, and want it to grow one of the easiest ways of doing so is to grow the base. Far easier than finding a new one. If the demand was for a positive birthrate, I think India, Southeast Asia and many other countries with a high birthrate have us covered. The problem isn’t not enough babies, it’s not enough mormon babies.

  62. Ugly Mahana says:

    With all due respect, I don’t want to ‘bare’ anything regarding birth control with any of you.

  63. Veritas – I think what she’s saying (and I may be wrong) is that people who choose to have small families without truly consulting the Lord are not sincere in their willingness to follow the counsel of the Lord’s mouthpiece. In fact, I think she said quite the opposite to your accusation – that it isn’t about number.

    Don’t you see that by saying this, you are assuming there must be people with small families that aren’t truly consulting the Lord? You say its not about a number, but you also say there are ‘small’ and ‘large’ families, and that some with ‘small’ families are not being sincere in their council. How on earth does you or anyone else know that? You don’t. Nor does the Prophet or the Bishop or anyone else but the parents and God.

    I think HF gives us principles we have the ability to live, because he is merciful. Right now in the world, most people do not, for a vast variety of reasons, have the ability to have many children.

    It is impossible to say you believe some people should have more kids without judging ‘some people’.

  64. Very well Ray.

    Let me rephrase and use what an old Stake President once told me in an interview. “Anything that you do with your wife in your bedroom that is consenual, not abusive or degrading and done in love between you two is no business of anyone in the church. Nor the decisions pertaining to those things.”

    I think it was wise advice.

  65. but what in the world is that supposed to mean? It’s like you didn’t read ronito’s comment at all.

    Sure I did. ronito said, “does this mean that someone with 2 kids is somehow less enlightened than those with 8?” I was basically saying that just because a family has 8 children doesn’t mean that they are any more righteous/enlightened than a family that has 2. The only way to know if one was more righteous than the other (if it were our job to judge, which it isn’t) would be to know their hearts. If God only cared about headcount as an indicator of righteousness, He wouldn’t leave some couples infertile and others with

    I don’t mean to be rude, but everything you have said on this thread boils down to the fact that you believe if people were really being sincere in their family planning, they would have larger families.
    I mean, if God told you to have lots of kids, that must be what he would tell everyone who is really listening.

    Veritas, you have really misunderstodo me. I think the fact that our leaders have expressed concern means that collectively, we may not be quite where we should be with regard to this commandment. I also think that if the Lord wanted smaller families, I doubt the leaders would be saying what they are saying.

    Incidentally, if you read my comment earlier, you would know that God has actually told me NOT to have any more children at this point (I have health issues that I’ve been dealing with for over 4 years). It’s heartbreaking to me. I’m not in my large family pointing fingers. I’m speaking about general principles, ones that I wish I could actually do something more about now in my own life. I hold onto the fact that God knows my heart and isn’t going to judge me on headcount in my family.

    Have you considered that they might be giving counsel that not only benefits the church but could benefit us? If a couple makes selfish decisions, it’s very possible that they will regret it at some point. You paint a picture of the prophets only having interest in their stewardship for the church’s sake, rather than considering also that they give counsel to guide us in our personal decisions in a way that keeps an eternal perspective. There is joy to be had in having a posterity.

  66. You also misunderstood me. ha.

  67. Steve Evans says:

    Ugly Mahana (#62), you said it!

  68. erg..I also realized I didn’t complete a sentence up there. Yikes. What I was getting at is that clearly there is more to our righteousness than how many children we have because there are trials that inhibit couples from having children, in spite of their sincere desires to do so. In the same way that some people want to get married but dont have that chance, the Lord will judge us based on our hearts and desires, not necessarily on what people can see about our lives from the outside.

  69. I’ll agree to the fact that children make us better I have three and can attest to that.However it’s not like it’s typical for married couples in this church to not have kids. So again, it’s not an issue of none, but not enough. But you must also admit that more children also serves a temporal purpose. I paint a picture where leadership cares of temporal growth, you paint a picture of a leadership that cares only for spiritual things. If anything the truth lies in between.

  70. Ronito, I wasn’t suggesting that us having children doesn’t contribute to the growth of the Church as well, so I agree with the “truth lies in between” thing, too. But think about it — if we are to give all we have to the kingdom, it’s something to think about at the individual level, too, right? All the more reason the Lord should be involved in the decision about having children. The number of children we have isn’t just about our individual situations but about what the Lord sees and knows for what our children could accomplish for His work.

  71. #64, Ronito, that is almost word for word what I have said. Thanks for including it.

    At the risk of someone misunderstanding, let me share a personal note of my own. My wife and I thought we were done having kids 9 years ago. We had exactly the number we had envisioned when we got married, and I thought one more might be harmful to my wife’s health. We prayed about it and felt good about our decision to stop.

    About 3 years later, it was made very clear to both of us – independently, first my wife, then me – that we should have one more. My wife felt it as she prayed; it took a much more direct spiritual slap upside my head for me to understand – truly an incredible experience. Now, we can’t imagine our lives without our youngest.

    I too share the concern that many members do not understand and follow the general counsel we have been given to make the size of our families a matter of prayer and personal revelation. I see members in this area who approach it from an intellectual, mathematical angle – weighing cost-benefit analysis and deciding to limit children without seeking guidance from the Lord.

    In saying this, I am NOT saying or even implying that there is ANY way to judge righteousness simply by number of children. I don’t believe that at all. 0-18 for anyone but my wife and I, and I have NO idea whatsoever – unless my calling or friendship gives me direct insight into their motivation. I simply am agreeing with m&m in positing that my wife and I would not be following the Lord conscientiously if we had one less child than we do. To quote m&m, the number does not matter; the heart does.

  72. You know it really makes me laugh to think of the GAs with a bunch of slide rules and calculators toting up the “growth” of the church and pitching a hissy fit if doesn’t meet their projection graphs. That aint how it is kids. Honestly, I don’t think the brethren give a rat’s patootie about “growth” unless it’s something they need to have surgically removed.

  73. Ray, unless you follow m&m’s counsel at all times, you cannot quote her without being a hypocrite.

  74. Before I crash tonight (this morning), Amen, MCQ. I have sat in councils where growth was discussed, and it ALWAYS was addressed in terms of missionary work, not BIC rates. Do I think they are concerned about the general trend of family size? Yes. Do I think they stay up devising a marketing strategy to get each couple to have one more kid? That does make me laugh, even as tired as I am.

  75. MCQ, Do the quotes that cover my bedroom walls show my unquestioning acceptance of m&m’s counsel? I’m running out of tape, m&m, so you might need to stop commenting for a while.

  76. I was more worried about you dressing like her lately. Wasn’t going to say anything though.

  77. My hero carries a man-purse, but my wife and my ecclesiastical leader won’t let me follow that lead. Good night.

  78. The comments by individual Brethren I have read mention, or imply concern, about the declining birth rate in the Church, but do not seem (except possibly by indirect implication) to ascribe a particular moral value to it. That is, I have not seen any statement by any of the Brethren, since 1998, expressing that active LDS are, individually or collectively, “not doing their job”, so to speak.

    It is very possible I have missed the talks in which some of the Brethren may have stated (or very strongly implied) that active LDS should, individually or collectively, be less selfish or pray more sincerely about the number of children to have (and thus increase the birth rate). Perhaps someone more adept than me in finding online the talks mentioning the decline in active LDS birth rate could post them so that we can discuss precisely what they said and did not say.

    I am particularly interested in which of these statements were made by President Hinckley or his counselors in the First Presidency, and which remarks have been made in general conference or published in the Ensign.

  79. DavidH: You asked for it. I did a search and found the following: It appears to me that, at least in the last ten years, the Prophet, FP and the 12 have little to say directly on the subject of birth control and/or declining birth rates. There are some interesting statements, however.

    Statement under “Birth Control” in Gospel Topics:

    Children are one of the greatest blessings in life, and their birth into loving and nurturing families is central to God’s purposes for humanity. When husband and wife are physically able, they have the privilege and responsibility to bring children into the world and to nurture them. The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is a private matter for the husband and wife.

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

    Sexual relations within marriage are not only for the purpose of procreation, but also a means of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual ties between husband and wife.

    Husband and wife are encouraged to pray and counsel together as they plan their families. Issues to consider include the physical and mental health of the mother and father and their capacity to provide the basic necessities of life for their children.

    Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple. Elective abortion as a method of birth control, however, is contrary to the commandments of God.

    “Strengthening the Family: Multiply and Replenish the Earth,” Ensign, Apr 2005, 18–19

    Lesson 1: “The Family Is Central to the Creator’s Plan”, Marriage and Family Relations Participant’s Study Guide, 3

    M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Ensign, Mar 2006, 26–33

    Russell M. Nelson, “Faith and Families,” Ensign, Mar 2007, 36–41

  80. Oops, left out a couple:

    Boyd K. Packer, “The Golden Years,” Ensign, May 2003, 82:

    We face an ominous challenge. Populations worldwide are declining. The birthrate in most countries is falling and life expectancy increasing. Families are smaller—deliberately limited. In some countries, in just a few years there will be more grandparents than there are children. The aging of the population has far-reaching consequences economically, socially, and spiritually. It will affect the growth of the Church.

    (Please note that he does not advocate banning BC, or even curtailing it, as a remedy)

    I’m adding this one because I just think it’s fantastic; it made me cry:

    Gordon B. Hinckley, “To the Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov 2003, 113

  81. Mark #59 – I chose “interfere” only because it reflected the stay-out-of-my-business attitude. A more positive face is certainly the “touches on” attitude. And you are right, we are all to be prophets, but I don’t think that means we will be without hierarchy while in a telestial state. I don’t think it’s possible.

    Ronito – I can see your point, but I think the GAs main concern is probably the status of its “faithful” members. Lack of birthrate may reflect a lack of faithfulness. But it’s probably like most things – a little of both.

    Veritas –

    Don’t you see that by saying this, you are assuming there must be people with small families that aren’t truly consulting the Lord?

    Well, I think there are some, speaking in a theoretical sense. It’s possible to judge a behavior without judging a specific person. I think it’s valid to speak in modes of behavior so long as I don’t say “this person has obviously not consulted the Lord.” To say that there are likely some people out there who haven’t prayerfully considered is easy in this world. But I think there are some with large families who haven’t prayerfully considered, either. That’s just not what I thought M&M’s comments focused on. (But she did a better job of explaining her point that I did, naturally.)

  82. Here is a link to the particular talk I had in mind. It is from the 2006 Women’s Conference, which ain’t General Conference, but ain’t the local elk’s club, either.


    After being away four years, I came home from World War II and wanted, even yearned, to be married. In the years during the war, I became mature enough to realize that rather than making a list of specifications by which to measure a future companion, I should concentrate on what I myself must do. How could I be worthy of and able to fulfill the dreams of one with enduring values centered in home and family who would want to be my companion?
    After more than fifty years, I am still trying to be worthy of her and good to her.
    We were in school and had little material things to offer one another. We had our love and our faith and a determination to live the principles of the gospel—all of them, the difficult ones as well as the easy ones. We planned our life together and determined that we would accept each child born to us.
    I remember clearly this incident: We had three small children. I had a very modest income. The bishop’s wife, who was close to Donna’s family (Donna’s father was a counselor to the bishop), came to see her mother and said, “I’ve cried all morning. I heard that Donna is expecting again.” We would not trade the child that came (it was our first girl) or the six that followed after, for anything you can imagine.
    Once we said: “Perhaps if we plant a tree each time a child is born and pass that tradition to the coming generations, we may live in a small forest.”
    Now fifty-eight years later, it has come to pass in our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who now number one short of 100. We live in a house that the real estate agents describe as old, sheltered under the trees at the end of a lane that reminds you of a forest.
    I pay tribute to my wife. Now, I am bound to tell the truth. (I am on Church property!) I have without hesitation described her as being perfect. And so she is! She has borne each of our ten children; each is a child of God. And now they and their partners to whom they are sealed, and the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that have come, all honor her.


    Recently there was printed in an international publication an article under the strange title of “Babies Win Wars.”5 It chronicled several centuries of the history of countries that lost population. When they had difficulty in sustaining their population and themselves, they became vulnerable to invasion and occupation.
    Now the birthrate is declining in every country in the world. In order for a nation’s population to remain stable, the birthrate must be just over two children per woman of childbearing years.
    In more than thirty countries in Europe, the birthrate is below the replacement rate. In several, it is hovering barely above half that replacement rate. The population of some countries is declining at an alarming rate.
    The United States is barely above the replacement rate. Only because of immigration and the higher birthrate among the Hispanic people do we maintain our population…
    Virtually every social security and medical system in the developed world is facing bankruptcy. An aging population can neither work to sustain the people nor fight to protect them.
    That trend is seen in the Church. Worldwide, the birthrate among members married in the temple is notably higher than in the world, but this rate too has been declining. In one European country with a sizeable population of Church members, for example, the birthrate among temple-married members, although higher than the national average, is below the replacement rate. Worldwide, the birthrate of Church members is only slightly higher than the world at large.
    Like the rest of the population, members of the Church must suffer the consequences of these trends. We face a particular set of issues because the pool from which missionaries are drawn is in steady decline.

    I don’t think it sufficient to dismiss this as only his opinion, although I may be wrong.

  83. #80, Thanks, MCQ, for the link to Pres. Hinckley’s 2003 talk. It made me cry, as well, and I asked my wife to read it again. If nothing else, it was exactly what she needs right now.

  84. JDC: Obviously, BKP is concerned or even alarmed about this subject, but I don’t see the brethren as a group getting exercised over it, and I don’t see the prophet getting involved in it. The fact is that we still have a lot of missionaries. More now than when I went, by almost double. To me, that doesn’t speak of a trend to get alarmed about.

  85. Sure, but, as you noted, he isn’t alone. You gave a link to an Elder Nelson talk I had in mind, from which is the following:

    As Sister Nelson and I look back, we can honestly say that our family and membership in the Church are most important to us. How thankful we are that we heeded the counsel of Church leaders to marry in the temple, to invite children into our family, and to serve the Lord! If we had placed our education ahead of our family, we would not be so blessed now. Education was a lengthy process for us. Earning two doctor’s degrees took me a long time. Then we struggled through many more years of surgical specialization. I did not send a bill for surgical services until I had been out of medical school for more than 12 years! By then we had five children. But somehow we managed.

    The Brethren are preaching for us to have kids. They have expressed some concern regarding recent trends. Whether or not we agree on the interpretation of those facts, those are the facts. As much as we like to think of Elder Packer as being the wild-eyed, out-of-control, maniac in the Twelve, I don’t believe that he would bring this up if it was just him talking, at least not in that forum or in that way.

    Of course, Elders Nelson and Packer, the two most vocal on this topic, are considered among the more conservative of the Twelve. So those who disagree can always say that Elders Oaks, etc. haven’t commented on it.

  86. JDC: In that quote, Nelson is not talking about falling birthrates or population statistics. He’s not talking about number of children, he’s talking about timing of children; i.e., don’t wait until after you are financially secure to start a family. That’s a different subject. I thought the question (posed by DavidH) was whether there was some sort of consensus among the brethren that the statistics regarding birthrates were alarming enough that there was a general alarm being sounded with respect to how we should act in family planning. I don’t see that in Nelson’s talk, or in the sermons of the brethren generally.

  87. As much as we like to think of Elder Packer as being the wild-eyed, out-of-control, maniac in the Twelve

    Not my image of BKP, by the way.

  88. So those who disagree can always say that Elders Oaks, etc. haven’t commented on it.

    Actually, Elder Oaks HAS commented on it. ;)

  89. I think this is interesting.

    Based on the recent Packer, Nelson, and Oaks talks I think we are at the beginning of a push by SLC to encourage larger families again. The key to me to verifying a new direction would be some FP messages or a FP conference talk by GBH. It could fall on Monson to give such a talk in the next few years. That would be a change from his hospital stories I must say

    I know of a recently released SP in Illinois that had already begun asking members for one more child. Members who followed this councel joke that the recent baby is a President E. baby

    Another interesting point is that Utah is still pretty far ahead of the US birthrate and historically is on par with the divergence between LDS and Non LDS birthrates.

    The sky is not falling concerning our LDS birthrate. Its simply not that robust anymore but still more robust that the average US rate.

    I largely agree with M&M in #20.

    I also am of the opinion that the numbers for a large family have changed some.

    4 is the new 6 or whatever. It takes more to raise kids now. 8-10 kid families are really quite rare now.

  90. I found one example of a comment from Elder Oaks in October 1993 general conference (see here for the complete context):

    Our knowledge of the great plan of happiness also gives us a unique perspective on the subject of marriage and the bearing of children. In this we also run counter to some strong current forces in custom, law, and economics.

    . . .

    President Kimball said, “It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so” (Ensign, May 1979, p. 6). When married couples postpone childbearing until after they have satisfied their material goals, the mere passage of time assures that they seriously reduce their potential to participate in furthering our Heavenly Father’s plan for all of his spirit children. Faithful Latter-day Saints cannot afford to look upon children as an interference with what the world calls “self-fulfillment.” Our covenants with God and the ultimate purpose of life are tied up in those little ones who reach for our time, our love, and our sacrifices.

    How many children should a couple have? All they can care for! Of course, to care for children means more than simply giving them life. Children must be loved, nurtured, taught, fed, clothed, housed, and well started in their capacities to be good parents themselves. Exercising faith in God’s promises to bless them when they are keeping his commandments, many LDS parents have large families. Others seek but are not blessed with children or with the number of children they desire. In a matter as intimate as this, we should not judge one another.

    “All they can care for” may be hyperbole, but it was said all the same . . .

  91. bbell’s SP example is precisely why the FP and the 12 have such a difficult task. They must read the signs of the times and give us counsel accordingly (one of the main OT & NT responsibilities of prophets), but they also deal with over-zealous local leaders to take the general counsel and start trying to apply it to individuals.

    I believe that one of the most inspired aspects of the organizational restoration is that “we, the people” run the Church at the local level – and that one of the most dangerous aspects of the organizational restoration is that “we, the people” run the Church at the local level. When Pres. Hinckley teaches and repeats his teaching that the strength of the Church is in the testimonies of its members, he is stating not only a belief but also a hope, IMHO.

  92. m&m: are you talking about the same talk that CE quotes? Or is there another Oaks talk that I missed. I copuldn’t find one on this subject in the last ten years. I think if a GA hasn’t spoken on the subject in ten years, it’s safe to say it’s not a pressing topic. Talks from 1993 ain’t doin’ it for me.

    CE: I think that the explanation of “all they can care for” that he gives renders it non-hyperbole

  93. MCQ,
    I’m not ignoring you but want to answer in a post rather than a comment here. Like I said somewhere here the past week, I have a post I am brewing for BoJ that I will likely post early at my own blog given this discussion.

  94. Ray, I really like you. I can’t recall a single comment you’ve made that I didn’t agree with.

    I’d speculate that changes in the position of the Brethren may often occur after receiving feedback from the local level. I wonder how many times an idea is floated, only to be brought back down by “If we say X, we will end up with too many Bishops doing Y.”

  95. Mark IV says:

    We might be able to discern how much anxiety church leaders are feeling about smaller families by looking at their examples. This is what family size looks like for our five most recent apostles:

    Hales – 2 children
    Holland – 3
    Eyring – 6
    Uchtdorf – 2
    Bednar – 3

    That works out to an average of 3.2 per family.

    We have no idea about their personal circumstances or the circumstances of their wives, so the reasons for their respective family’s sizes are none of our business. But I think they will have a hard time convincing others that large families are important.

  96. #89 bbell — “It would fall on Monson to give such a talk in the next few years. That would be a change from his hospital stories I must say.”

    That would indeed be a change from his hospital stories, but we will always need a leader like TS Monson to remind us that our true purpose boils down to Christian service, not repopulation (or some other specific point). We need a leader who shows by what he says, as well as by what he does not say that we do not need to interpret the gospel exactly as he does. His words leave enough room for a range of interpretations. I like to think he does that on purpose.

    Of course, he could very well decide to preach plainly on this subject. We’ll see!

  97. Mark,
    Yet another reason why the issue isn’t fully about family SIZE per se but about heart. I know Hollands wanted 8 and Uchdorfs wanted more but couldn’t. I will assume that the same applied to others as well. The leaders aren’t talking about the number of children we “should” be having; they are talking about the doctrine and commandment to multiply and replenish, inviting us each to do “all we can do” in this regard.

    BTW, Pres. Monson has addressed the doctrine as well. :)

  98. m&m: You are building up a lot of pent up expectations for your post. All I can say is, you better deliver!

    Mark IV: That is just what this thread needed, some hard numbers. Fascinating.

  99. Mark,
    Does the average go up with the older apostles? I know that President Packer has 10 and Elder Nelson has 8. President Monson has 3, right? Do these numbers really matter? Do we believe that the apostles are expecting to boost our birth rate personally? If we did, then I would better understand fears of the reinstitution of polygamy.

  100. The idea of having to consult with the Lord about how many children to have is interesting. I had the amount I wanted, when I wanted. I never thought to ask Him. Honestly, I don’t think we need to consult him if we don’t want to. My God likes it when I make my own decisions.

  101. JDC: I think those numbers do matter, though they are not of primary importance. The implication is that, if the apostles are examples of faithfulness and obedience, one can assume from these numbers that there is nothing unfaithful or disobedient about having a smaller family. Circumstances vary. Their circumstances were not the same as those who have larger families. That’s all.

    Speaking of polygamy, Elder Oaks seems to be telling us that he will be practicing it in the hereafter in this talk:
    Dallin H. Oaks, “Timing,” Ensign, Oct 2003, 10–17:

    When I was 66, my wife June died of cancer. Two years later I married Kristen McMain, the eternal companion who now stands at my side.


    Faith and trust in the Lord give us the strength to accept and persist, whatever happens in our lives. I did not know why I received a “no” answer to my prayers for the recovery of my wife of many years, but the Lord gave me a witness that this was His will, and He gave me the strength to accept it. Two years after her death, I met the wonderful woman who is now my wife for eternity. And I know that this also was the will of the Lord.

  102. Mark IV says:


    Here are the numbers for the rest of the quorum:

    Packer – 10
    Perry – 3
    Nelson – 10
    Oaks – 6
    Ballard – 7
    Wirthlin – 8
    Scott – 7

    Average – 6.5 children per family

    So yes, the older apostles have larger families, on average, which underscores my point.

    The trend towards fewer children which elder Packer decried in your comment # 82 is discernable not just in the general church population at large, but even in our leading quorum.

    I’m not sure if this means anything at all. Elder and sister Bednar could have 0 or 15 children and it would be no skin off my nose. I’m just pointing out the difficulty of teaching something that your own behavior seems to argue against.

  103. MCQ, I know, it’s a mean trick, but I’ve already written some of the content of my post here and I would rather have it all consolidated. I hope it won’t disappoint. I’m feeling all this pressure all of a sudden…. ;)

  104. Elder Oaks’ 1993 “all you can” talk was given before the official position in the Handbook changed, which is now also reflected in True to the Faith. I do not think anyone has repeated anything like the “all you can” advice since then.

    For what it is worth, the three Apostles who have recently mentioned the decline in birthrate have 10 children (President Packer), 10 children (Elder Nelson), and 6 children (Elder Oaks), respectively, for a total of 26. This is double the number of children of the members of the First Presidency (President Hinckley-5, President Monson-3, President Faust-5: total 13).

    The recent Elder Oaks comment with respect to the birthrate was in a CES broadcast:

    “This tendency to postpone adult responsibilities, including marriage and family, is surely visible among our LDS young adults. The average age at marriage has increased in the last few decades, and the number of children born to LDS married couples has decreased. Elder Nelson’s fireside message three months ago, Faith and Families, spoke of this subject, and it is also part of my theme, ‘The Dedication of a Lifetime.’ I will, therefore, conclude by sharing some concerns about some current practices in the relationships of young LDS singles in North America.”,4945,538-1-3100-1,00.html

  105. And, obviously, some of the quotes are already on this post. :)

  106. The Bednars only have 3 kids. I used to work with the middle one.
    What happens if in 40 years the apostles have no kids? Are we gonna turn into the Shakers?

  107. Folks, if we can’t judge people on the number of children they have, we certainly can’t hold up apostles and assume we know why they had fewer or more. I’ve already shared two examples of two of the ones who have fewer but wanted more. We can’t really use a double standard of judging apostles based on the headcount in our families (assuming we know the reasons for such numbers) but then asserting that we can’t judge each other.

  108. That should read “based on the headcount in THEIR families”….

  109. I agree that we should not judge any family for the number of children they have or do not have. I also believe that, perhaps, we should not judge the Saints collectively based on the number of children, collectively, we have or do not have. And I think those Brethren who have noted the declining birthrate have been careful not to express (at least directly) a collective moral judgment on childbearing decisions of the Saints.

  110. So I realize now that Mark had already said how many kids the Bednars had all while I was trying to name drop.That makes my comment officially lame. Though I didn’t tell you we were supervisors together at the MTC. I practically am the child of an apostle now.

    But I totally think we should judge people. The Twelve especially.

  111. Mark IV says:

    I do name dropping all the time, amri. Like whenever people hear my surname and ask me if I’m related to that awesome amri woman, I always smile modestly and nod.

  112. Here is something interesting.

    I discussed this topic at length with a relative who is in the first tier non GA managment team at Church HQ. He deals with church social science stats from time to time.

    Paraphrasing this is what he said….

    “Social trends in the church tend to follow the general trends in society to a degree and a generation or so behind.”

    Example: Birthrate.

    The US birthrate dropped quite a bit starting in the mid 1960’s. The LDS birthrate started dropping in the late 70’s to early 80’s. During the baby boom we averaged about 1 child more per woman and currently we average 1 child more per woman

    Other social trends are similar. Divorce rates, pre-marital sex, abortion etc all show similar patterns. As society engages in more pre-marital sex, divorce, abortion so do the LDS. Our percentage is not as great but it will still show an increase after society as a whole.

  113. Nate C. says:

    I agree that we should not judge any family for the number of children they have or do not have. I also believe that, perhaps, we should not judge the Saints collectively based on the number of children, collectively, we have or do not have. And I think those Brethren who have noted the declining birthrate have been careful not to express (at least directly) a collective moral judgment on childbearing decisions of the Saints.

    Would have been a better if you had stopped after word 7.

  114. bbell then the church should be happy then to know that the divorce rate is the lowest it’s been since the 70s.

  115. MCQ and anyone else who is interested,

    I’ve compiled a bunch of quotes related to this topic (more general than birth control per se, but on the issue of multiplying and replenishing) here. These are from current leaders or current resources. I didn’t use any of the old quotes unless they were included in a current manual or talk given by a current leader. Enjoy! :)

  116. re: 78-81, I haven’t seen any emphasis, subtle or otherwise, about family size from church leaders. Perhaps the commenters here are concentrated in area where the general membership has taken an interest, but in the Southeast and Northeast I don’t recall any recent talks or counsel about family size and/or planning.

    If one were to do a similar search as #80 and plug in “tithing” “pornography” “gambling” “seminary” etc. one would probably find a lot of recent articles. In the information age, we are blessed with lots and lots of counsel, all of which can be instantly retrieved, but I still don’t sense any urgency for the membership to reconsider family size. Then again, maybe I spend too much time reading other material during sacrament, stake and general conference talks. I just haven’t heard anything about the evils of family planning or declining LDS birthrates, to say nothing of the evils of BC, even from the most orthodox iron rodders. A highcouncilman talk about the evils of BC would definitely catch my attention, if only b/c I know it would lead to an interesting discussion with my teen age children where I patiently explain that while the speaker does indeed represent the Stake President, what he said was a bunch of bunk and can be disregarded with impunity. A GC talk on the evils of BC would probably cause the Bloggernacle to implode with caustic discussions about following the prophet and the merits, or lack thereof, of BC.

    This is an interesting post with interesting opinions and fascinating historical quotes, but BC, as a spiritual matter, is really a non-issue today, at least in my experience. Everyone does it, in one form or another.

    BTW, as I sat in an airport this morning, I watched a story on CNN about a 20 year old woman who was pregnant with her THIRD set of twins! Apparently the odds are something like 800,000 to 1 for a woman to have three sets of twins. At the tail end of the story, the anchorette tossed in the additional fact that this 20 year old woman also has another child who is not a twin. Do the math: 4 pregnancies; 7 kids; and, a 21 year old mom. That situation is screaming out for birth control.

  117. Thanks m&m.

  118. Ditto, m&m. After reading everything you quoted, I wondered what the fuss was all about. Thank you.

  119. Kristine says:

    Yes, Ray, selective quotation can have that effect.

  120. Melanie says:

    Kristine, what other quotes and/or context would you add? (I’m assuming you think m&m’s list is skewed…what do you think is missing?)

  121. Kristine says:

    The whole point is that there’s a conflict between the current position and the past one. If you only quote the current one, then of course it looks like there’s no conflict.

  122. Come on, Kristine. There was a request made to clarify the current position, knowing full well that the specific counsel had changed. The consensus seemed to be that the underlying multiply and replenish principle has been constant, but the exact position on BC has changed. That’s what m&m did so admiarbly – gather the latest pronouncements, being VERY clear that no attempt was being made to present everything ever said. You can’t stack up an imaginay straw man and complain that it wasn’t addressed.

    On the other hand, perhaps you simply didn’t read the comments that led to m&m’s compilation. If so, I’ll give you a modified pass on this one.

  123. John Williams says:

    So Ray, why has the “exact” position on BC changed then if there’s no reason to make a big “fuss?”

  124. Sorry, John, the change and the fuss already have been addressed extensively.

    All that I will add is that your question, unintentionally I hope, isn’t reasonable. You have the cause and effect out of order chronologically in your question – frankly, distorting the entire conversation. Your question implies that there should not have been a change, since there is no reason to fuss about what is being said. That’s backwards and misleading.

    The change itself is what brought the lack of a reason for us to fuss – about CURRENT pronouncements, not PAST ones. We don’t have to deal with those from the past, only those from the present – one of the great things about Mormonism that has been dissected in multiple threads. I would take your question and restate it as the following assertion, which simply restates what I said in #118: “Since the exact position on BC has changed, and since it now is in line with what just about everyone has said in this thread, there’s no reason to make a big fuss about it now.”

    Address that assertion, within the context of the actual quotes m&m provided and without denying the ability for doctrinal and practical change, and it will be worth more comments. Otherwise, the topic has been covered fully by now.

  125. Adam Greenwood says:

    Men often joke that they want fewer children but I think this is really a joke.

    Its not a one-to-one correlation, but I’ve seen a correlation between men who make that kind of joke and men who who smaller, delayed families.

  126. Adam Greenwood says:

    Do the math. 4 pregnancies; 7 kids; and a 21-year old mom. That situation is screaming out for birth control.

    If its wicked to judge specific individuals for the number of kids they have, its wicked to judge specific individuals for the number of kids they have.

    I don’t see the Brethren saying that we can’t judge the childless but if someone has too many kids, sure, go ahead and judge them.

    For some reason if we see a childless couple its obvious that we shouldn’t judge them because maybe their infertile or whatever but if we see a struggling family with lots of children we all feel comfortable deploring the irresponsibility and telling them what to do.

  127. Thanks, Adam, for addressing that point. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy no matter the acceptability of its application.

    My wife was pregnant with our second child while I was in college – common at BYU but unheard of at my liberal college. Adding to the situation was that she looked like she was about 17 when she wore jeans and put her hair in a ponytail. We got some really nasty looks and more than one reference to birth control.

  128. Am I the only one who thinks that 4 full term pregnancies by the age of 20 is a little “different” or out of the norm? (I sure don’t want to judge here.) Working backwards, this poor young woman-there goes my judging again-had her first baby at 16. IMO, that’s a bit young to have a baby, even if married. And-here comes another judgment-16, imo, is too young to be married. And, the coup de grace, if one is married at 16, BC is in order, at least until the wife is at least 17.

    B/c I did not want to be judgmental, or judge too harshly, I left out the other nugget from the story: there are multiple fathers for the 7 children. But, in this nonjdugmental world, that really doesn’t matter or is orthogonal to the issue of BC.

    Oh, btw, 7 kids by the age of 21 with multiple fathers is irresponsible. It’s also an extraordinary accomplishment.

  129. Setting aside the situation of that particular women (the one with 7 kids and 4 full term pregnancies), I’ve known a couple who tried many forms of birth control and still ended up with unwanted pregnancies. Even the best forms of BC can fail for some people. So, to agree with 126, you can’t look at a struggling family with lots of kids and judge them for not using BC – maybe they did and it didn’t work.

    My personal opinion is that people shouldn’t set arbitrary limits or goals on the number of kids they want. If you feel you need/want 8 in order to feel successful and you end up with fertility issues, you may feel as if you failed or are unfulfilled. If you say, “I can only handle 3”, you may be wrong. I say, if you’re ready (emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, etc) to have another child, have another. If you’re not, wait. If H.F. says have another one, take a deep breath and trust Him. I’ve seen many people declare themselves done when they’re still young enough that they could say, “we think we’re done, but we’ll take a sanity break for now and maybe in a few years things will change. If not, that’s okay and we’ll be happy and content with what we have.”

  130. No, rb, you aren’t alone, but I know a neighbor who dropped out of high school at 16 to get married – in the temple. They have 7 kids, are gloriously happy, have filled leadership positions in the Church and wouldn’t change a thing. They also beg their kids to do it differently than they did – unless one of their kids feels the same promptings that led to their own marriage.

    Of course, the multiple fathers changes the scenario. That should have been included up front in the initial description. It also brings up questions to me that cannot be addressed in this post, so I will let it drop at that.

  131. That example of a young woman bearing children from many different dads is one key example of why birth control has been condemned by Church leaders. It’s never been fully an issue addressed to members; it’s also been about the promiscuous society we live in that condones sexuality without marriage and encourages promiscuity rather than chastity and also that encourages selfishness over sacrifice.

  132. Kristine says:

    m&m, I’m not sure I follow you here–church leaders told members not to use birth control because they were worried about non-members’ promiscuity?? (In 1920?) You’ll need to flesh out that argument a bit…

  133. Amen, m&m. There is a deep seated belief in individual accountability – and someone using birth control as a means of enjoying sex outside of marriage without having to take responsibility for that promiscuity is a direct attack on the idea of individual accountability.

    My stance is pretty simple: Sex AND birth control should be confined to marriage, since abstaining from extra-marital sex would negate the need to use birth control. If someone is going to break the basic commandment to avoid extra-marital sex, then I don’t have any problem with them using birth control – since they already are outside the commandment, anyway. I don’t see any “extra” punishment in that situation, just as I don’t see any “extra” punishment for homosexual activity as opposed to heterosexual extra-marital activity. If someone chooses to engage, then by all means use birth control.

  134. Kristine,
    I should have been a bit more clear. Some of the quotes from past leaders (more those from the latter half of the 20th century) addressed promiscuity. But you will note that I also mentioned selfish attitudes (which I should have separated from the concept of promiscuity). Those were condemned earlier on as well. Selfishness can exist in a marriage as well as in extra- or pre-marital relationship. The attitudes are condemned as well as the practices (when bc was condemned itself).

  135. In a broader sense, I should add, the speaking out against birth control often included speaking out against trends of the day. Earlier on, leaders spoke out against the trend to limit family size and thus violate commandments and covenants and reduce the joy that can be had in posterity. (Important to note was the reminder that it was for the happiness of the parents and family (preventing disappointment) that was often mentioned, not simply a disappointed God.) As time went on, there was also the preaching against the fears of overpopulation (which has still been mentioned by current leaders). Later in the 20th century, promiscuity was included as something decried.

    Throughout all of the quotes, there is the thread of condemning selfishness in marriage.

  136. Steve Evans says:

    m&m, you’re changing your tune here. Your comment 131 was all about promiscuity, using selfishness as a sidebar explanation for such promiscuity.

  137. Steve Evans says:

    Not that there’s anything wrong with changing your tune — people do it all the time. But if you’re trying to make a point (not sure), it will help if your arguments are consistent.

  138. I disagree, Steve. m&m was addressing a specific example of promiscuity, but she also included other reasons for the pronouncements about birth control. She set it in historical context, and, for such a concise post, I thought it was exemplary – but maybe that’s just because I admire it when someone writes such a concise yet full post.

  139. Thomas Parkin says:

    While in the midst of my raging addiction not only to porn but to the sex industry in general, I had this realization: birth control and abortion make all this possible. I don’t mean to draw any conclusions from that – I’m personally grateful for effective BC – just stating it as a reality.


  140. Steve,
    The selfishness wasn’t supposed to be tied to the promiscuity alone and that is why I added the comment that clarified that. Not really changing my tune per se, but adding to it. More rich in harmonies now, don’t you think?

    I also think that Thomas hits on something that most people likely don’t want to address and what I think our leaders realized: that birth control adds to a lot of problems in our society, from promiscuity to marital selfishness and working against the plan of God. Does that mean that everyone who uses birth control with pure and prayerful motives is sinning? I don’t think so. But I think we are foolish if we think that birth control is a harmless entity in our society and even in the Church, and that it hasn’t and doesn’t have its costs. Or that the Church somehow doesn’t care about it now.

  141. Steve Evans says:

    “More rich in harmonies now, don’t you think?”


    I think that birth control is not an unalloyed good by any means, but it is by far beneficial in its totality. But you are correct that people don’t want to address this, because few opinions will be swayed on either side of the issue and it’s not worth discussing in the least.

  142. and m&m does it again. I think I have an intellectual crush on you. :-)

    I didn’t get specific in my earlier comment, but I also know of individuals who used BC specifically to help cover up incest – both by avoiding the natural consequesnces of it AND as a way of eliminating evidence should the victim go to the authorities. I DON’T want this to devolve into a discussion of incest, but it addresses directly the point that has been made multiple times in this thread: It’s not BC that is good or evil in and of itself, but rather the reason for its use that illustrates the internal motivation / character of the person using it.

    That’s why my stance is that BC is a marriage issue – approved with caution to seek individual guidance within the bonds of marriage but condemned as a way to enjoy the fruits of marriage outside of those bonds and think that there will be no spiritual consequences.

  143. that birth control adds to a lot of problems in our society, from promiscuity to marital selfishness and working against the plan of God.

    That is simply untrue. All of those problem were already there (prostitution, for instance, was invented well before the condom was). Birth control may have made it easier for some people to avoid pregnancy in some cases, but I don’t believe for a second that it is a great societal plaque. It is hyperbole to argue otherwise.

    Also, while it is terribly late at this point (especially since a gave this thread up for dead a while ago), is anyone ever going to address the original point of the post? I think Kevin tried to, but it was so long ago…

  144. Steve Evans says:

    Ray, if you have an intellectual crush on her, you should visit her blog and read more.

  145. Um, to clarify, I read m&m as saying that birth control causes societal problems. Then, as I clicked the button, I realized that she said they “added to” societal problems. I can’t deny that and, as a result, suggest that we should consider everything that adds to societal problems potentially suspect. For instance, I hear that a lot of society’s problems would end if we did away with oxygen (it would certainly help with promiscuity and marital selfishness). Another good option, we could keep the sexes strictly segregated until the eve of their wedding. It is the intermingling of the sexes that leads to their promiscuity. That said, I don’t know that this would take care of the marital selfishness thing; maybe if we gave them no possessions once they were married…

  146. HP, the sarcasm is really unnecessary. I’m simply repeating what prophets have talked about about. If you don’t agree with them or with what I have said, address it directly. Don’t be condescending and dismissive. Please.

  147. OK, HP: Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves. Not original, but on point, I think.

  148. Steve Evans says:

    m&m, the problem is that you are NOT simply parroting the prophets; you are picking and choosing from what they say and injecting your own farfetched conclusions. Again, that’s no crime — everyone does this. The difference is that you pretend you’re simply repeating them.

  149. m&m,
    To belabor Ray’s point, BC isn’t the problem. It is why we choose it that may be the problem (or it may not). Condemning birth control because some people are promiscuous is throwing the baby out with the bath water. The answer to promiscuity isn’t to make it harder to avoid having a baby; it is in teaching your children about consequences and hoping that they listen. I haven’t reviewed the collection of quotes you used because you said it related to the issue of multiplying and replenishing, which was where I was agreeing with you above. So I don’t know what specific comments prompted this particular revival. But it really is beside the point to argue regarding birth control’s contribution to teenage promiscuity when there are several other more important factors.

  150. Ok, folks. Let’s drop it. Nothing further to say here. Move along.

  151. I agree to drop it, but only after adding that I don’t see “farfetched conclusions” in what m&m said. Remember, HP, you are belaboring my point as I was agreeing with m&m. It’s not as clean a distinction as you make it seem. Rather, I see a VERY careful attemnpt by m&m to AVOID conclusions – instead pointing out an aspect that often gets ignored in our joyous approval of all things BC. It’s a case of agree to disagree, but it’s not Steve/HP’s rationality vs. m&m’s far-fetchedness.

    Now I’m done.

  152. HP, I actually agree with what Ray said. I think you are misunderstanding what I have said and misrepresenting it as well. Steve, same goes for you. Chill, bros, chill. Sorry I wasn’t more clear, but I won’t belabor except to say that your recreations of what I was trying to say are off.

    And I only jumped in because someone else revived it. (“It’s not my fault!”) (That was supposed to be a joke, if you couldn’t read the tone.)

    And thanks, Ray. I think you are understanding my intent and the content of my thoughts as well, and I appreciate that.

  153. As you wish, lady. (Anyone who doesn’t understand that comment should get a real life and enjoy the finest in cinematic production – and read the book, which makes the movie seem like a boring documentary.)

  154. Steve Evans says:

    get a room, you two.

  155. Get a life, Steve. :)

  156. Steve Evans says:

    I’d tell you to get a job, m&m, but I know you’d find that objectionable.

  157. Annie, get your gun. Now I really am done.

  158. Since the time of Mungo Man (and millennia before), humans have been having sex “out of wedlock.” Nothing new there. BC would seem to offer an opportunity to prevent this inevitable mating from producing unwanted offspring. I would call that a societal plus.

  159. Ronan, we agree on this one completely. I said essentially the same thing without mentioning sepcifically why (the unwanted offspring) in #133.

  160. sepcifically? Wow; I hit the button too early on that one!

  161. Adam Greenwood says:

    Because I did not want to be judgmental or judge too harshly, I left out the other nugget from the story: there are multiple fathers from the seven children.

    That’s my point. Its deeply wierd that we feel comfortable criticize people for having too many children but think it would be going to far to criticize them for sleeping around or for having kids out of wedlock.

    Four full term pregnancies by the age of 20 is a little different or out of the norm

    Fine, but to be consistent you would also have to feel comfortable urging people who have delayed having kids more than is the norm to stop using birth control.

  162. Adam Greenwood says:

    do you deny that birth control and abortion have led to an increase in out-of-wedlock sex?

  163. Compared with when, Adam?

  164. Adam Greenwood says:

    65 A.D. in Hanover. Seriously, what kind of question is that? I’m not asking for a historical comparison, I’m asking for a counterfactual.

  165. Look at England in the 1200s. Certified Prostitutes were kept for the unmarried servants of castles they made frequent (in some cases daily) well documented visits. Look it up. The servants certainly had more out of wedlock sex than anyone I know, and believe me given some of the people I know that’s saying something. There also other prostitutes for noblemen to keep them “entertained” while they were away. Further it was considered unhealthy for a man to go an extended period of time without sex, married or not. And sex was normally perscribed for ailments, there are even documented cases of these things being prescribed to priests. And these are just two examples from one country.

    If you look all over world history you’ll find plenty of them were having as much sex, if not more, than we’re having now. Even in countries that have a reputation for being christian.

    It’s not as if people were laying about then when suddenly when birth control came about they suddenly said, “PHEW! Thank goodness. Now I can have frivolous sex!” People did that at largely the same rate throughout history. It’s in their books, their art, their diaries, even their registers and medicine. Maybe they didn’t carefully document it and compile vast polls like we do now but to think that suddenly people started having more sex just because of BC and abortion is silly and looking for something to demonize. Keep in mind that most Europeans already had some very….umm….interesting methods of BC they came up with themselves ever since we see such stuff being written down. I’d name some, but I’m pretty sure that would be thoroughly beaten down by the filter.

    If history has taught me anything, it’s that this mythical time I keep hearing about when people were chaste and never had pre-marital sex, or at least less of it, just doesn’t exist. Sure there were groups that did abstain but they were by far in the minority.

  166. Re: 161

    I was trying be sarcastic about not judging what is on its face a, shall we say, difficult situation. I say judge on both counts: (1)7 kids by the age of 21! (2) different dads. Both awful, imo, situations.

    I really have no problem with people not having children at all, if that’s what they decide. Children are a fantastically rewarding experience, but at the same time a tremendous sacrifice. If a couple doesn’t feel up to the challenge, for whatever reason, I have no problem. It’s probably better for the prospective child/children. In sum, I judge, probably incorrectly and too harshly, those who, in my view, have too many children and with multiple, out of wedlock fathers, but I don’t judge those who don’t have kids. In addition to being judgmental, I guess that also makes me a hypocrite.

    Re: Ray’s personal experiences

    You have met some fascinating people or known of some highly unusual familial circumstances, e.g. temple marriage at 16-and it has worked out! I’d be interested to hear about other real life situations you’ve come across or seen, in all seriousness. It would make for an interesting post: most unusual circumstances for temple marriage and/or having children that have a happy ending. Those would be some interesting counterfactuals.

  167. rb, perhaps someday – but, in general, those cases are the exceptions that prove the rule. Even with my own experiences with odd situations that worked(or perhaps because they stand out in their uniqueness), I fully support the Church’s basic “ideal” concerning dating and marriage. To paraphrase and oversimplify: not too young; not too late; prayerful consideration and planning of family size and spacing, with BC a tool of that planning; bolstered by recognition that not all can achieve the ideal and must make appropriate and inspired modifications.

    Just a note about the “BC as a planning tool” point: I often joke that my wife and I would be a perfect poster couple for Planned Parenthood – if we didn’t have 6 children. I was in education in one way or another when all of them were born (student, teacher and educational sales), so each one was born during the summer break mnonths. (6 different birthdays in just over 2 months is insane, but it is very well planned!)