Three Statements

In 2004, the church issued True to the Faith, a First Presidency-approved booklet discussing many points of church doctrine. The booklet includes a discussion of birth control. How does that official, First Presidency-approved discussion compare to both President Beck’s recent talk on Mothers Who Know, and to the anti-Beck statement at the What Women Know website?

Here are the three statements:

1. The section on Birth Control from True to the Faith:

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

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

As you discuss this sacred matter, remember that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved. While one purpose of these relations is to provide physical bodies for God’s children, another purpose is to express love for one another—to bind husband and wife together in loyalty, fidelity, consideration, and common purpose.

2. President Beck:

Mothers Who Know Bear Children

Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are “becoming less valued,” in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children. Prophets, seers, and revelators who were sustained at this conference have declared that “God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels.”

Faithful daughters of God desire children. In the scriptures we read of Eve (see Moses 4:26), Sarah (see Genesis 17:16), Rebekah (see Genesis 24:60), and Mary (see 1 Nephi 11:13–20), who were foreordained to be mothers before children were born to them. Some women are not given the responsibility of bearing children in mortality, but just as Hannah of the Old Testament prayed fervently for her child (see 1 Samuel 1:11), the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain here will rise with them in the Resurrection (see D&C 130:18). Women who desire and work toward that blessing in this life are promised they will receive it for all eternity, and eternity is much, much longer than mortality. There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.

3. The signed letter at What Women Know:

We reverence the responsibility to choose how, when, and whether we become parents. Many of us have adoptive and foster children and grandchildren from diverse ethnicities and cultures. We have given birth to children who range widely on every dimension—from personality, appearance, and sexual identity to physical, social, and mental ability. No matter what their differences, we care for them all.


The key language in TTTF, I think, is “you and your spouse will be prepared to prayerfully decide how many children to have and when to have them. Such decisions are between the two of you and the Lord.”

What does that mean? TTTF indicates that spouses have discretion to decide to prayerfully decide on children. How far does that discretion extend? Does it extend, at least in some circumstances, to include a choice not to have any children at all?

That question, not directly answered in the TTTF text itself, seems to determine which of the other two statements harminizes best with TTTF. If couple discretion really includes ability to choose zero, then President Beck’s talk (which does not seem to give much of a choice on whether to have children) appears to seek to override that discretion, in conflict with the TTTF statement; and in contrast, the What Women Know statement actually reflects the TTTF rule relatively well.

On the other hand, if couple discretion is not intended to extend to a decision not to have children, then Beck’s talk best matches TTTF, while the What Women Know statement (which asserts a right to decide whether to have children) does not match TTTF, and would be an attempt to arrogate additional couple authority.

111 comments for “Three Statements

  1. Matt Evans
    November 18, 2007 at 1:31 am

    It seems to me that the operative language from TTTF, for this discussion, is “sacred responsibility to bring children into the world“.

    According to TTTF, couples who are “physically able” have a “sacred responsibility to bring children in the world”, and are therefore morally precluded from choosing not to have children.

  2. Jon W
    November 18, 2007 at 1:57 am

    Matt that is pretty much my opinion as well.

  3. Ludlow
    November 18, 2007 at 2:06 am

    But in the world of All Couples, not all are physically able. TTTF allows these couples not to feel guilty about choosing not to have children.

  4. MLU
    November 18, 2007 at 2:07 am

    In 1994 the De Moss Foundation ran some ads featuring the theme: “Life. What a Beautiful Choice.” NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) responded with an ad that turned things upside down: “Choice. What a Beautiful Life.”

    Reverencing choice is by now a familiar foundation of modernist thought. Shall we eat Vietnamese–or French? Shall we visit Rome–or London? Life–or death? A Volvo–or a minivan? A baby–or not?

    As choice becomes more and more reverenced, whatever is chosen matters less and less. The freedom in choosing is what seems important. But in all that freedom, people become increasingly confused, unwilling to listen to counsel.

  5. TMD
    November 18, 2007 at 2:27 am

    I concur with 1, but I would also emphasize the key element of desire. Another crucial statement in TTF is
    “With a testimony of these principles…”

    It is the desire, the kind of person that one is,the internalization of the gospel that produces the particular, righteous kind of desire for children expressed in the TTTF statement and by Beck (obviously, there can be unrighteous desires for children–like for instance, as part of a means of siphoning income off a pro-sports star).

    Some, through this testimony, may have a deep desire but inspite of it feel strong revelation against bearing children (or of course be unable). This is entirely within the realm of Beck’s and TTTF. It is absent in the adversarial statement.

    Indeed, the idea that the principles of the gospel have in them a positive connection with having children is absent in the adversarial statement. (Their logic would have it be a neutral connection–validating both the having and the not wanting to.) Their divergence from the gospel on this point is clear.

  6. BiV
    November 18, 2007 at 2:53 am

    Thank you, Kaimi, for putting up this extract from TTTF. I think it is a beautiful statement of encouragement which places a different emphasis on childbearing than many previous exhortations from prophets and GA’s. For me, this acceptance of the diversity of women’s circumstances aligns more closely with the statements at What Women Know than with Julie Beck’s talk. Perhaps Julie was simply trying to reiterate what was said in TTTF, however her unfortunate choice of words felt more like an attack to me and many other women. To me it felt like Julie was saying that if you weren’t currently having as many children as possible, you weren’t a “mother who knows.”

    For example, this is how Julie’s words struck me: I am a woman who is 47 years old, with 8 children. I have absolutely no desire to have children. I am currently physically, emotionally and financially able to have children, but have chosen not to. Julie’s words made me feel that my choice set me apart from her picture of a faithful Mormon woman. Julie’s talk also implied that someone in my situation did not value the family or eternity. Whether intentioned or not, Julie’s talk seems to force all women, regardless of circumstances, to make certain choices if they wish to be counted on the Lord’s side.

    I think the statement in TTTF is much more cognizant of women’s diversity and worth. And I think those values are what the women who signed the letter wished to assert.

  7. Matt Evans
    November 18, 2007 at 3:06 am

    BiV, there is a categorical difference between the TTTF’s “sacred responsibility to [bear children]”, and the WWK’s “responsibility to choose . . . whether to [bear children]”. The church teaches that healthy couples have responsibility to actually bear children, not just a responsibility to *choose whether* they will or won’t. Julie rightly noted that the WWK statement contradicts the church’s policy, as this section of TTTF demonstrates.

  8. BiV
    November 18, 2007 at 3:47 am

    TTTF invites and persuades, but in the end…”such decisions are between the two of you and the Lord.”

  9. Dan
    November 18, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Face it guys, President Julie Beck did not word her statement as “nicely” as TTTF did. President Julie Beck wrote her talk on her own, most likely. The TTTF was probably vetted by the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the right language. I don’t think it is fair to compare the two.

    That said, I also cannot get past the “sacred responsibility [to bear]” vs. WWK’s “whether to bear.” I think God would rather us, unless we couldn’t for whatever sound reason, bear children. That’s sort of the impression I get from the whole Gospel, from everything we learn about God and the creations he has created. The whole purpose of this life is to get a body. Spirits are pre-made. They are just waiting for bodies. The ‘sacred responsibility’ lies on those who are already here to create the bodies for the Spirits God created. WWK’s statement is perfectly correct that our freedom to choose has not been taken away, and we can choose ‘wether to bear.’ But as far as what God would want of us, well, their statement, in my opinion, does not match with what I can see God would desire of us.

  10. adcama
    November 18, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Kaimi – thanks for posting this.

    Part of the reason I was agitated by the counsel received in October conference is because it seemed to contradict TTTF. I feel much, much better with the counsel in TTTF – to me it feels exactly right.

  11. November 18, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Honestly I don’t see a contradiction in 3 statements, with the possible exception of the “and whether statement”. Leaving that aside for a moment, none of the statements contradict these 2 key points:

    1) Having children is an important part of the plan of happiness

    2) Decisions regarding child bearing should be made between the couple and the Lord.

    As for the “and whether” statement, are we sure that we are interpreting it correctly? Isn’t the following statement true?

    “It is my responsibility to choose what a full tithe is to me, and whether to pay tithing at all.”

    To me that is completely true, but it doesn’t say that there isn’t a wrong choice. I agree that on first read the WWK statement seems to be saying that choosing to have no children is ok, but I’m not 100% sure that’s what it’s saying.

    Additionally, when the TTTF says that it’s our decision “when” we have children, it’s not clear to me that it doesn’t include choosing “never” as a time, or at least “sometime in the infinite future,” which isn’t that much different than never. The bottom line to me is that the decision is between the couple and the Lord, and as long as the couple has sought the will of the Lord in their decision, no one else should tell them they have done wrong.

  12. November 18, 2007 at 10:59 am

    My favorite quote is from ETB which says we need to go with TNT or today’s news today. I guess that means Julie Beck who was also scrutinized by the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve is the answer of the moment. Her statement is closer to what past prophets have said. I also agree with Dan that we have a sacred responsibility to bear. Of course couples need to choose with the Lord’s help but more think they are the exception than the rule. WWK is definitely a misguided document which I would have warned DW from signing had she discussed it with me but since she has been in the feminist camp the last two years I just let free agency flow hoping she doesn’t get her ecclesiastical butt kicked. Lucky we are not in BKP’s prime years or most liberal bloggers would be on the outside looking in. He seems to have mellowed recently. I enjoy these discussions I learned a new wrinkle on the booklet statement but it doesn’t say anything about curtailing.

  13. Adam Greenwood
    November 18, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Was Sister Beck’s talk also First Presidency approved? If so, then it doesn’t really matter if if conflicts with a booklet put out by the bureacracy that the First Presidency also approved. I don’t think there is a conflict, though.

  14. adcama
    November 18, 2007 at 11:41 am

    “……you and your spouse will be prepared to prayerfully decide how many children to have and when to have them. Such decisions are between the two of you and the Lord.”

    “…..young couples should not postpone having children.”

    This is one of the conflicts I see….

  15. Eric Boysen
    November 18, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    The commandment is to multiply, but as with all commandments we have the choice to obey, or not. The consequences of disobedience are not specified with the commandment itself, but are clear to us in the words of the leaders of the kingdom. The prophetic statements of General Authorities and General Officers of the Church are guidance on how to implement the commandment in our lives today.

    There is no conflict in the words of the pamphlet and those of President Beck, it is just that the pamphlet expands the concepts in greater detail and highlights exceptions. I see nothing there that says that a “woman who knows” who is physically, emotionally and materially able should not have children, but it is all about making a decision with the husband and God. The third statement is in harmony with the other two on the importance of exercising our agency, but in the spirit it was issued in, as a manifesto of oposition, makes me read it as a note of discord.

  16. dangermom
    November 18, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    I really don’t see anything wrong with President Beck’s words, or that they conflict with TTTF. She’s talking about valuing children, almost regardless of one’s actual ability to bear them, but if we can, we should. We all know that we’re not asked to have more children than we can handle, it’s been said many times. I’ve been unable to have more than two children, but I’m fine with what she said. It didn’t make me feel belittled or judged or anything.

    WWK clearly disagrees with the principle that we have a responsibility to have children if at all possible. What strikes me as really strange about that paragraph is how it empasizes the diversity of the authors’ children and that they are cared for, as if President Beck had somehow said that things should be otherwise and we shouldn’t love children with disabilities.

  17. Kevin Barney
    November 18, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    We all know that the Church’s attitudes towards birth control have developed substantially over time, from a position that it is an inherent evil to today’s view that it is a neutral tool. So the time depth of statements one chooses to base a talk on are going to matter a great deal in the tone of the attitude towards having children. TTTF is the state of the art and is, in my view, a huge improvement over past rhetoric. This decision really is between the couple and the Lord, and that is as it should be. (There are innumerable variables which blanket statements over a pulpit are never sufficient to take into account, as I think Timer’s synopsis of the other thread ably demonstrated.)

    By reaching back to earlier statements (such as ETB), Sister Beck’s talk came off as colder and far less nuanced than TTTF, and I suspect that is what people are reacting to. But my guess is that she didn’t mean for it to come across quite that way, and I’m happy to cut her some slack. Still, in response to Kaimi’s question, I think that implicit in TTTF is that, notwithstanding the clear encouragement and hope that couples will decide to have children and gently nudging them in that direction, I read the ultimate answer as being that in the end the decision is between the couple and the Lord. Assuming that that troika is indeed involved, then yes, a good and responsible decision not to have children at all is indeed possible.

    So I see statement 3 as more in harmony with statement 1, but on the other hand I understand where Julie Beck’s rhetoric was coming from, it is a part of our recent rhetorical past and I don’t fault her for relying on it in making a statement that happens to be less elegant than TTTF. So I think I agree with Dan in no. 9.

  18. Bob
    November 18, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    #17; Why can’t the Leaders just say: Having no kids is OK (or not), but having kids more joyful, 1-10, your pick? Why the need for all the nuance, code, and confusion?

  19. Kaimi Wenger
    November 18, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    TTTF looks like a carefully agreed on compromise. It wouldn’t surprise me if leaders’ views on birth control vary — some believing more strongly than others that it is an acceptable option.

    So TTTF ends up being purposefully ambiguous. It says rather strongly that having kids is important; but then it leaves the decision to the couple and the Lord.

    That ambiguity is something that can appeal to members of many different groups. It allows the church to appeal to different groups without coming down strongly one way or the other on what appear to be somewhat conflicting statements. (A similar approach is in the Proclamation’s declarations that men preside, among equal partners.) That ambiguity is important for members who do choose to use birth control. It is something a member can point to, as an official sanction for decisions.

    President Beck’s talk seems intended in some ways to remove the ambiguity. For members who take comfort in the flexibility of TTTF, Beck’s talk is probably jarring. (Adcama, Dan, and Kevin have noted this in comments.) Does this mean they can no longer rely on the careful, calculated neutrality of TTTF?

  20. ganzo
    November 18, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    If you go to the church website and look up birth control on the “gospel topics” page, you will still find the TTTF statement. Does anyone really think that Sister Beck’s language will replace this anytime soon? I personally (and my wife) will continue to rely on the TTTF statement.

  21. Bob
    November 18, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    #19: I agree with you on the intent of the TTIF wording. I am just sadden that neither peace nor comfort were achieved by it. I have a daughter with 5 kids (I love them!). I have a 30+ son with 0 (that’s OK with me), I had a grandmother who had 13 because she thought it was God’s Commandment, and she spent the last 27 years of her life..starting at 45… in a mental hospital (that’s not OK).

  22. ECS
    November 18, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    I’m all for being appealing :) but I’m more concerned about the Truth. One (some would argue the only) responsibility of our Church leaders is to consistently proclaim the Truth – regardless of its appeal. Wishy washy statements about birth control and family size may be appealing, but do they get us closer to the Truth?

    Our Church leaders can instruct us in the one true way to wear earrings and facial hair, but then equivocate on important issues such as birth control and family size.

  23. dangermom
    November 18, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Well, I think the truth is probably that we need to seek personal revelation for this very personal issue. Having children isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal like earrings mostly are. If we’re seeking to live according to Heavenly Father’s will for us, then we’ll end up having the right number of children, which is as many has He wants us each to have. For me, that was two–to my surprise and sorrow, but I’m starting to see why. For someone else, it might be 5 or 11 or 3. And it might even be none, but that certainly isn’t the default number, and either way it isn’t something to be determined solely by personal desire, but by prayer and revelation.

  24. Richard O.
    November 18, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Is there really any question that birth control is widely used among Latter-day Saint couples? The real question is not “if” but “how much.”

    If you look at the numbers of missionaries going out, there has been a fairly large drop off. The message that I hear around Church Headquarters is that while the membership is up in the U.S.A. and Canada, the number of 19 year olds is down. Heavy birth control is having its effect. We are still above the national average in numbers of births per thousand. But we are following the same downward curve, we just start from a higher number of children.

    The native populations of Europe seem to be committing a slow genocide. TIn Europe, those countries that are not actually declining in birth rate (frequently below replacement levels) seem to be doing so because large emigrant populations (mostly Islamic) have a high birth rate. Hence Sister Beck’s reference to some areas of the world where many are simply deciding not to have children is addressing real people in real places.

    I doubt that Sister Beck is pushing those in their 40’s who already have 8 kids to have more. Nor is she pushing those with serious health issues to risk life and limb. Nor is she out to beat up women who have never had the opportunity to marry. But when I meet old married friends in their 60’s who, by choice, never got around to having any kids, it is another thing. The ship sailed and now they feel sad.

    When we see the uproar when the R.S. Gen. Pres. gave such a speech, can you imagine what the response would have been if a male, even if he was an Apostle or a member of the First Presidency, had been as forthright?

  25. November 18, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    I also don’t really see how Sis Beck’s talk disagrees with earlier counsel. She talks about “desiring” children, not “having” children. Like others have pointed out, families are a central point in the gospel and always have been. I think she is reacting to a trend in our culture to view childbearing as optional or children as a burden. I really don’t see how she is urging people to have a lot of children. Two of her examples, Hannah and Sarah, only had one child each. Even if you “don’t delay” childbearing, you can still stop at a few if that’s what you feel is right for your family. We had our first child less than two years after being married and we’re both younger than thirty, but we’re probably still going to end up with only two or three kids at most. Perhaps her statement could have had been a little less blunt. I think it feels more strong to me because it is directed to women rather than to the couple, like the statement in TTTF. But I really don’t see the two as contradictory. I do find the “don’t delay” quote from ETB problematic, but again, it can be interpreted in so many ways. I felt like using birth control for a year after marriage was not delaying (we have a four year old and a one year old and are still in school); I’ve had other friends who felt that they were not to use birth control. How long is “delaying”? Only your heart can tell you that–no one else can.

  26. Proud Daughter of Eve
    November 18, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    I’m not sure I see a disparity between Sister Beck’s talk and what is said in True To The Faith. She said that women should desire to have children and value motherhood. She didn’t say that all women must *have* children. I think a coupe who decided, because of health issues (physical, mental, whatever) not to have a family but who desired to would fit in with Sister Beck’s talk just fine.

  27. adcama
    November 18, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Statement #2 does say that “…..young couples should not postpone having children…….”

  28. ganzo
    November 18, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    #26, if a young couple (early twenties) prayerfully decides they want 4 children – what does it matter if they wait until their late twenties to begin having children? Most healthy women wouldn’t have much trouble having 4 children in this time frame. If you do begin to run into biological issues in your thirties, what would be wrong with adopting at this point? This approach would seem to be in perfect accord with the TTTF statement but not necessarily with Sister Beck – see # 27.

  29. ganzo
    November 18, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Sorry – my previous post is directed at #25 not #26.

  30. November 18, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    #29–That’s what I meant when I said that the admonition to not “postpone” or “delay” can be very subjective. I don’t think it matters how long you wait to have children; although we read throughout the scriptures that we are judged on the thoughts and intents of our heart. If, as both TTTF and Sis Beck point out, we desire children, then I don’t think it matters how long we wait until we start our family. Of course waiting too long can make it harder to keep that desire going, but again I don’t think that either quote is looking for a specific number of kids, age at starting childbearing, or whether you have children through adoption or not. I am not in the position to judge the thoughts of anyone else’s heart and to know whether or not they are selfishly delaying having children.

  31. bb
    November 18, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    I don\’t think Sister Beck\’s comments were meant to establish a new harder line on child-bearing. I really feel her emphasis was meant to emphasize that we value having and caring for children and she chose to use strong wording to enforce her point. That said, I think Pres. Benson’s quote does conflict with TTF. How many and when are key choices presented in TTF, but Beck\’s comments sure seem to fit in spirit more with historical mormon culture/tradition (everyone should have them early and have them often). I don\’t think this is what she was trying to convey, but at the same time I find it hard to believe she realize it might be percieved that way and she was treading a thin line.

    I think most of the ideas of TTF are included in the WWK website, with the edition of the how and whether. Despite it\’s ambiguity, I dont have a problem with the \”how\” as they seem to explain of number of the ways you could become parent or parent like influence. However, I also have no problem with the addition choice of whether. I don’t think they are trying to devalue parenthood by adding this, but presenting an option that many do not feel that they can righteously make. In the early days of my medical practice, I was involved in the care of a family whose parents where carriers for cystic fibrosis. Due to unfortunate odds, 3 of 4 of their beautiful children were struck with the disease. One died at 17, another who was 15 was very ill. Though not LDS, their faith strongly encouraged children and discouraged birth control, so whether to have children was not much of an option. I know it\’s an extreme example, but I\’ve seen and heard of others who do not feel they have a choice of whether to have children based on their \”sacred responsibility to bring children into the world.\”

    I do not find fault with those who choose to have children in these difficult circumstances, but I would also never fault someone who chose not to. I doubt many of us would either, but with wording like that used in Beck\’s talk (and even TTF) in the context of Mormon culture/tradition and folk belief, I worry their are some who do not feel like they can make a choice of whether to have children if they are physically able but have other extenuating circumstances. Some have said that they may recieve revelation not to, but I think it would be hard to be open to recieving revelation that contradicts strong statements such as Pres. Benson\’s.

    I do not think that choosing no children should be the default or a common option, but I really don\’t see what the big deal is about making it AN option, especially for otherwise healthy and able couples like the one I knew. In the What Women Know statement, the wording how, when, and whether is vague. They are not giving specifics, so I am not sure the way I read it fits with their intent, but I also think it is disengenuous to read into it that they are encouraging all women to throw off the shackles of motherhood. In fact, overall I think the document is very encouraging of parenthood. It seems reasonable that we can be encouraging or parenthood and child-rearing while wording it in a way that is still encouraging for those who are in special circumstances.

  32. Bob
    November 18, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    #25: How hard would it have been for Sister Beck to say: “Faithful daughters of God desire children *bur it’s OK if some don’t*.. If that was her message ? When I grew up in the Church in the 50s, if you were not having kids before were ‘delaying’.

  33. bb
    November 18, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Re. 30 “That’s what I meant when I said that the admonition to not “postpone” or “delay” can be very subjective. I don’t think it matters how long you wait to have children…….I don’t think that either quote is looking for a specific number of kids, age at starting childbearing”

    I’m not sure your view fits well with the traditional mormon interpretation of our parenting duty and I am sure that a number of people are and will interpret the statement in a way that fits with that traditional thought, mainly that we should marry early and have children right away. This was clearly Pres. Benson’s intent when he made the comments Sis. Beck quoted. While I am not sure she meant to convey the same thought by using it, but I would also be surprised if she didn’t realize how it might be viewed. I would like to think that she did not mean to conradict TTF, but the use of Pres. Benson’s quote is problematic, and if you interpret it in the context of what he meant when he said it, then it would be hard to argue that their is some incongruity between TTF and what Beck presented. A few quotes that illustrate the historical mormon view on child rearing.

    From Pres. Benson
    “Do not postpone the blessings of honorable parenthood following marriage. When God said it was our responsibility to multiply and replenish the earth, that marriage was primarily for that purpose, He didn’t insert any provisions. (London Area Conference, 19-20 June 1976.)”

    and from Pres. Kimball
    “After marriage young wives should be occupied in bearing and rearing children. I know of no scriptures or authorities which authorize young wives to delay their families or to go to work to put their husbands through college.” (New Era > February 1976)

    Definately a different tone than TTF and what is generally taught today.

  34. Jack
    November 18, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Sometimes we (collectively) need a thump on the head. As Richard O. pointed out, there are some countries/cultures dying a slow death because they don’t have a high enough replacement rate. I can just see the last man and woman of our enlightened western elitist descendants standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol rallying for their rights not to have children.

    We (collectively) should be ashamed for not taking this well deserved lump on the head with a little more grace. If you have special needs that get in the way of child bearing, fine. You’re living at the right time–most everyone will understand. But when the exception becomes the rule on this matter, then we’re talking about a big problem–one that will leave earth utterly wasted.

  35. Jack
    November 18, 2007 at 7:55 pm


  36. Pam Birch
    November 18, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    I wonder if Adam and Eve felt that there was a disparity between the different counsel they received.

  37. Pam Birch
    November 18, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    #21- I hope that you are not implying that she was in a mental hospital because of the number of children she had.

  38. Bob
    November 18, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    #39: I am. Keep in mind we are talking about the 1940s. Her Diagnosis would have probably have been ” a Nervous Breakdown “. My mother was her oldest daughter, and most of the care fail on her. It may be, she would have ended up there anyway, but the death of her husband, failure of her farm, WWII, the Depression AND 13 kids, didn’t help. But her kids (my mother and sisters),always said “Too many kids.” Her father was her Bishop for 25 yrs.

  39. November 18, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    Since I am no longer a direct participant in the biological reproductive cycle, I read these comments with bemused curiosity. Isn’t it intriguing how some of the same old questions and doubts persist — and some of the same answers, good and bad, wise and foolish, spin out of these discussions and arguments. I’m pretty sure Adam and Eve talked about some of the same things. :-)

    Something that does seem to bother me — I wonder now, will Sister Beck ever again feel free to express her thoughts? She might come to feel like Enoch — “…all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech.” Perhaps just the introduction of doubt — and possibly, more than just a bit of willful faithlessness — will lead to a significant compromise in the quality of the messages delivered to us in the future, by SIster Beck and by others.

    I believe Heavenly Father will not strive with us forever on such issues. If we refuse the inspired counsel of His servants, we risk the consequences of offending God.

  40. ganzo
    November 18, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    #30 – Then I am basically in agreement with your approach. However, my interpretation of “young couples should not delay” does not leave as much room for subjectivity as yours.

  41. November 19, 2007 at 1:29 am

    “I don’t think most people who decide to have children are mentally ill.”

    That just begs for some sort of humorous comment, but I’m not finding one right now.

  42. rmarshan
    November 19, 2007 at 2:31 am

    I\’m sick of people making such a big fuss about sister B. talk. I think you ladies should cowboy up and stop finding offense where none is intended. Stop whining about something we all know we came to earth to do: BEAR KIDS. I think her talk was great, and if the shoes fit…
    Her talk was perfect to those that don\’t want to have kids because they don\’t want to stretch marks (trust me, I heard that one) or because they want to do something \”more meaningful\” on their lives.

    If you don\’t want to have them for whatever reason, fine, and let\’s give sister B. a break.

  43. James Francisco
    November 19, 2007 at 2:56 am

    After reading all of the comments I have one small question. Could I see a show of (virtual) hands of all those who think that Sister Beck’s talk was written in a vacuum without the knowledge and approval of the First Presidency and the Twelve?

  44. November 19, 2007 at 3:47 am

    #43, I absolutely do not think that Sister Beck wrote her talk in a vacuum. To suggest that is absurd. Sister Beck has been a part of the Young Women’s Presidency for a few years and has traveled the world. She is also a mother and wife. To suggest that she is somehow unaware of the challenges women face with childbearing and the doctrine about this is unfair and unrealistic. I didn’t see or hear President Hinckley stand up after her talk and refute her words.
    I believe that Sister Beck was called by God to this calling. I believe that she prayed and prayed for inspiration to lead her. I believe that she has the full sustaining support of the First Presidency and the Twelve.
    If we don’t like her talk, then it is up to us to take our concerns and problems to the Lord and ask for help understanding what she said and what we need to do in our own lives. It’s time to stop justifying ourselves and make sure we are really doing what is right.

  45. rmarshan
    November 19, 2007 at 4:34 am

    i agree with tiffany and james francisco.

  46. Eric Boysen
    November 19, 2007 at 9:44 am

    #41 How ’bout insanity is hereditary. . . You get it from your kids.

  47. Kelton Baker
    November 19, 2007 at 11:25 am

    I find the manifesto of opposition at the What Women Know website discordant and mean-spirited. It was written in opposition to Beck\’s talk, yet mentions items in opposition to themes never discussed.

    Most strident is the smug bash against Beck\’s praises of the stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon by discounting the whole event in the Book of Mormon as a failure because it didn\’t match a certain modern worldview with pacifist political aspirations.

  48. Bob
    November 19, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Not a vacuum, maybe a bubble.

  49. BBELL
    November 19, 2007 at 11:55 am

    I do not think that P Becks comments came from nowhere.

    Since the early 1980’s and the relaxing of the BC counsel the Church Birthrate has dropped some 60%. This 60% drop is of great concern to the SLC Heirarchy. Much of the drop is in the US and Canada. The source for most of the tithing $$ and full time missionaries for the world. Without a lot of BIC children in North America things will slow down for the LDS church. The good news for us is that everybody else has slowed down to a much lower reproductive rate so by comparison we are still growing pretty fast

    I have been anticipating in the naccle for ther last 2-3 years that there would soon be an attempt to turn the birthrate around out of LDS demographic self interest. The Beck talk is the first really strident attempt to do so. Do not be suprised as the demographic trend line continues to go down that more Beck like talks will not be given. I think that the ball has probably swung to far in one direction recently impacting reproductive rates. Now an attempt will be made to swing back again to higher reproductive rates

  50. Julie M. Smith
    November 19, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    “The Beck talk is the first really strident attempt to do so.”

    Pres. Packer has mentioned declining birthrates at length in one (maybe two) talks at BYU’s Women’s Conf. There were also reports (trustworthy? I don’t know) that Elder Oaks told a stake in the Pacific NW that it was “in liquidation” because the entire stake only had 100 primary-ages kids. Pres. Beck might be the first to take it to GC, but this has definitely been a theme lately.

    That said, the formulation “most of the tithing $$ and full time missionaries” leaves a bad taste in my mouth–as if all the church cared about were dollars and numbers. I don’t think that is the case at all. I believe it is more about individual members living up to their covenants as opposed to the collective effect on the church. (Although I agree that a developing-world-heavy church would be harder to run. for a variety of reasons.)

  51. Mark B.
    November 19, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    “The Beck talk is the first really strident attempt to do so.”

    I wonder bbell if you really meant “strident.” I didn’t hear a bit of stridency in her talk.

    On a related note: Sister Beck’s brother lives in our area, and is a counselor in the mission presidency. She recently came to visit and spoke at a fireside to which all the members within the mission were invited–about 500 came.

    In the introduction, it was said that she and her husband are the parents of three children. Since she is my age, it’s unlikely that the number will increase.

  52. Kristine
    November 19, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    bbell, do you have a source for the 60% statistic?

  53. BBELL
    November 19, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Mark, How about “direct”?

    I was almost literally cheering during the Beck talk. As was my wife and inlaws. I also know about the Packer talks recently. But this was in GC and it was the first in what I hope are many talks like it to come. The Church needs to roll back the tide amongst many in our ranks who seem to be deciding based on the data that Childbearing is out of style.

    Julie I know for sure that SLC (I have a relative who sees the books in SLC) is concerned about the impact that a decline in children and a decline in tithing revenues if the base of North American members gets smaller as a result could have. North America acts as a Bank that funds church operations worldwide. Few if any countries outside of NA are financially able to self fund and rely on North American tithing funds to operate. The subsidy is so large that even items like scriptures and garments are subsidized

    The number of YM in North America available for missions has also declined and has resulted in less missionaries. The pullback is already occurring and started about 5 years ago in Europe.

  54. dpc
    November 19, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    I think that regardless of religious affiliation, all healthy persons physically and psychologically capable of bearing children have a moral obligation to society to replace themselves. Those who choose not to replace themselves are “moochers” who seek to take the benefits society offers without giving anything back in return.

  55. BBELL
    November 19, 2007 at 12:37 pm


    Go to and get to the membership data. Start running the numbers on children of record. The drop is immense and gets worse if you start in the 1970’s

  56. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Some really good points made about the demographic problems the Church is facing because of our reluctance to have children. But I thought the best point was TMD way back in #5–our shriveled primaries are less of a problem than our shriveled hearts. The Gospel aims to make us the kind of people who want real bad to raise kids.

    I’m still of the opinion that TTTF and Sister Beck are totally compatible, which is not surprising since I imagine both were approved by the First Presidency. But contrary to some of the commenters here, I don’t think they’re compatible because Sister Beck can be turned around to agree with the supposed ‘carte blanche’ message of TTTF. That’s a bad reading of TTTF. TTTF is not an indulgence we’ve been given, one that allows us to go along with everyone else in our society. Its a responsibility to get family size right, shifted from off the Church’s shoulders on to our own shoulders. Judging from the precipitous decline in births, its a responsibility we’re doing bad at. The world is too much with us.

  57. ganzo
    November 19, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Adam #56,

    If having fewer children is really shriveling our hearts, why would the church “indulge” us in this area when they don’t in so many others?

  58. ganzo
    November 19, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Sorry – I mean “it doesn’t” instead of “they don’t” in the previous post. I was mentally interchanging “the church” and “the brethren”.

  59. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    If having fewer children is really shriveling our hearts,

    Your cause and effect is reversed.

    why would the church “indulge” us in this area when they don’t in so many others?

    We’re not being indulged. That’s my point. The conflict between Sister Beck and TTTF disappears if you stop seeing TTTF as an indulgence.

    “Thou shalts’ are always more difficult to make bright line rules out of than ‘thou shalt nots.’ This is especially true when it comes to something as momentous as children. So I think our doctrine will always acknowledge at least some area of discretion that we can use. But since we’ve been abusing that discretion, in my opinion, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future we hear more about the principle of having children and less about the exceptions. Sister Beck is only the first. God bless her.

  60. ganzo
    November 19, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    You may be right but I don’t think that the TTTF entry under birth control is going to say “young couples should not delay” anytime soon. I don’t think the TTTF is an indulgence – I think it gives people leeway. Independent of the logistical and financial consequences, I think people for the most part are prayerfully using that leeway.

  61. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Then we disagree.

  62. ganzo
    November 19, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    And unfortunately the data necessary to solve the disagreement (the size of church members’ hearts?) are not available.

  63. James
    November 19, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Has anyone considered that the phrase, “prayerfully decide how many children to have and when to have them,” could be read to mean to consider and plan for how to space the births of the children that a couple is inspired to have?

  64. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    And unfortunately the data necessary to solve the disagreement (the size of church members’ hearts?) are not available.

    True. What I think your theory needs to explain is why there’s been such a big drop in birthrates and why the big drop in birth rates has strikingly paralleled the secular decline in birth rates. You need to come up with a reason why God would want us to have a lot less children than in the decades before the 80s, one that also happens to explain away the parallel secular decline in birth rates as a coincidence or else somehow also the will of God. I’ve seen some attempts to do this, but none of them are persuasive.

  65. Sara R
    November 19, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    In my experience, God doesn’t tell you when you marry, “You should have this many children at these particular times.” You pray (with the “default” setting being to have children), and then God says “Now” or “Not now.” God doesn’t lead off telling you the whole plan. You are given the information you need when you need it, according to your faith.

    So, while it may sound logical that there isn’t much of a difference between having 4 kids in your 30s as opposed to your 20s, it is different. Being willing to take that large of a leap of faith in God’s will for your lives changes you. It helps you see that you can trust God. This lesson carries into other areas of your lives.

    Plus, life happens and you can’t count on 4 children in your 30s. Women’s fertility peaks at age 27. Bad health happens making future children impossible. I got a cancer diagnosis at age 32 making future children unlikely (now impossible). I’m very glad I had my 3 when I felt prompted to do so.

  66. ECS
    November 19, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Interesting that those decrying the decline in birthrates are overwhelmingly male. . .

  67. Bob
    November 19, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    #56: So when you have replaced yourself, is it “a moral obligation to society” to…move on? Or, if you.. ‘stay around’… are you a ‘ “moocher”?

  68. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Interesting that those decrying the decline in birthrates are overwhelmingly male. . .

    Just as interesting as the fact that in America generally and among the American saints specifically, its more often the husband that wants to delay and limit the family size. In this argument, gender politics are not fruitful.

    I have always understood Sister Beck to be female. Perhaps I was too hasty.

  69. James
    November 19, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    #66: Concern about declining birthrates is not solely the province of men. Some of the best discussions of the national security risks inherent in declining birthrates and imbalances in the ratio of newborns are being published by Valerie Hudson of the BYU Political Science department. Concern about the economic, social, and security implications as well as the spiritual issues for societies with declining birthrates should be shared by all. Societies that do not at least maintain a steady population die. Most likely they get absorbed or conquered by more growth oriented cultures. Look at Japan. In a very few years, one in five Japanese will be over 65. Their birthrate is below replacement and as a result, they are going to have to bring in either guest workers or permanent immigrants to survive as a nation-state. While that may keep Japan, Inc. in business, it will not prevent the slide of the ethnic Japanese into marginalization or extinction.

  70. ganzo
    November 19, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Adam #64,

    I have plenty to say on this but I lack the time to fully flesh it out and I would probably repeat the arguments of others you cite. Further, even if my arguments were more cogent than what you have already heard, I have a suspicion that it would not change your mind.

    #68, based on my anecdotal experience I think you are right that the husband usually wants to delay more than the wife. Do you have empirical evidence for this?

  71. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Further, even if my arguments were more cogent than what you have already heard, I have a suspicion that it would not change your mind.

    Nice little bit of well poisoning there.

    based on my anecdotal experience I think you are right that the husband usually wants to delay more than the wife. Do you have empirical evidence for this?

    I saw a study for Americans a while back and one for Mormons done more recently but I don’t have cites for either. I can’t tell you more, though I seem to remember that at least one of them was based solely on interviews of women, not men, so maybe that would be a flaw in the methodology. My anecdotal experience is like yours.

  72. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    How does that official, First Presidency-approved discussion compare to both President Beck’s recent talk on Mothers Who Know

    I’m still waiting to hear from KW why he thinks that a talk by the woman called to be the RS President, in General Conference no less, doesn’t qualify as either ‘official’ or ‘First Presidency-approved.’

    “Who is that woman, Gordon?”
    “I don’t know, Tommy, I thought she was with you.”

  73. CS Eric
    November 19, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Adam (#72)

    “Well if you don’t know her, and I don’t know her, maybe Jim invited her and forgot to tell us.”

  74. ganzo
    November 19, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    #71, It was not my intent to “poison the well” and I apologize. I was just honestly telling you why I am not going to take the time to effectively address your post. In the interest of “cleansing” the well, I will come back to this in a few days (if the post is still open) when I have enough time to present an intelligent argument. Also, if you have any specific citations for the “unpersuasive” arguments on this topic, I would be interested in seeing them.

  75. Bob
    November 19, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    #66: Maybe God IS running out of Spirits? By ‘secular” you mean White? Otherwise, the world (and America’s) population is still going up.
    #77:”…bring in either guest workers or permanent immigrants to survive as a nation-state. While that may keep Japan, Inc. in business, it will not prevent the slide of the ethnic Japanese into marginalization or extinction”. This is how we built America, Japan should give it a try. The Church calls it ‘converts’.

  76. Julie M. Smith
    November 19, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    “God doesn’t lead off telling you the whole plan.”

    Well, not true in my case. I’ve known for a long time that we were supposed to have four. (I consider this a tender mercy given my, um, organization- and planning-minded personality.) I have no idea what is or is not true for other couples.

    ““Who is that woman, Gordon?”
    “I don’t know, Tommy, I thought she was with you.””


  77. Kaimi Wenger
    November 19, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Adam G.,

    Clearly, there is an element of First Presidency approval in any given General Conference talk (including Sister Beck’s). I never said otherwise.

    (Though it does seem that any given talk is unlikely to have been given the level of scrutiny as a publication like TTTF, no?)

  78. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    It was not my intent to “poison the well” and I apologize. I was just honestly telling you why I am not going to take the time to effectively address your post

    Fair enough. I understand.

  79. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Clearly, there is an element of First Presidency approval in any given General Conference talk (including Sister Beck’s). I never said otherwise.

    But you took care to highlight the “official, First Presidency-approved” status of the TTTF while rhetorically putting Sis. Beck on the same par as an internet manifesto put out by a gaggle of the misguided.


    Update: come to think of it, it occurred to me that the explanation might just be that you thought Mormons would already know that Sis. Beck’s talk was ‘official, First Presidency-approved but you didn’t think they would know that about the TTTF.

  80. Dan S.
    November 19, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    When you look to the scriptures, you do see a commandment for bearing children “Be fruitful and multiply.” But, is this a commandment required for salvation? I have never been asked this question in a temple recommend interview. There is no question like this in the baptismal interview. The D&C says that individuals can be saved in the celestial kingdom without having met this requirement. In fact, there is at least one level of the celestial kingdom described as being set apart for individuals who choose not to marry or have children. Therefore, in the end, having children is clearly not a saving ordinance or saving principal. You can get to the celestial kingdom without even being “willing” to have children. Therefore, I clearly think that it is wise for the Church to not put numbers on these kind of things.

    Church leaders have always advocated having children as a method of experiencing divinity. So, it seems clear to me that even though the Church does not put a number on children, it strongly suggests having children. The Church says that it is unwise to avoid children if you are mentally and physically able. Nevertheless, the Church has never, as far as I know, said that someone is unrighteous just because they are not willing to raise children. Therefore, any statements that imply unrighteousness are, in my opinion, too harsh, and not entirely in line with Church doctrine.

    However, how prepared can one expect to be for exultation without being willing to raise children? We believe that exultation (the highest level of the celestial kingdom) requires eternal marriage for the purpose of eternal increase. Therefore, I believe our doctrine indicates that exultation includes having spiritual children. So, can anyone really be prepared for the responsibility of eternal increase without being willing to experience having and raising children? Probably not. That is how I interpret the term “sacred responsibility”. It truly is a sacred privilege, opportunity, and duty. It is good. So, any statement that suggests that having children is an “option” is an unwise statement. But, ultimately, that issue really is a personal issue to be sorted out between the individual and the Lord.

  81. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    But, is this a commandment required for salvation?

    Pretty clearly not. But I think its tied in to exaltation in the ways you discuss.

  82. Kaimi Wenger
    November 19, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    I don’t know if the talk was written _in_ a vacuum, but I do hope that she wrote it while vacuuming. (Or ironing.)

  83. Adam Greenwood
    November 19, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    Stay classy, KW.

  84. JCP
    November 19, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    I’m puzzled by the claim that people today are less righteous than previous generations because family size has fallen. Part of the reason I find the attacks on President Beck ill-considered (to say the least) is that I do not see where in her talk she has made these supposedly unrighteous observations. Others have made this point more eloquently.

    However, when I search the talk for assertions of the unrighteousness of the current generation of members relative to previous ones I must admit that I don’t find that either. In fact, I don’t know of any conference talks or church publications that assert this.

    Have I just missed something in this argument or is there some sort of doctrine with which I should be familiar?

    I’m also wondering about the cross-section (as opposed to the time-series). Family size in many undeveloped countries is much higher than in the U.S. (though there is obviously variation). Is this evidence of the righteousness of those nations relative to the U.S. (at least on that dimension)?

    Different circumstances seem like they would call for different decisions. I wouldn’t deny that righteousness might be at issue. But how can we be sure? Unless we can account for the implications of the different circumstances (over time, or across countries), I’m not sure how we can say much with confidence.

  85. Bob
    November 20, 2007 at 12:22 am

    #86: “Different circumstances seem like they would call for different decisions.” I believe there have been Conference talks against “Situational Ethics”.

  86. Amy
    November 20, 2007 at 1:39 am

    #42, 43, 44 totally agree. Can we just let this go? Seriously. If you have a problem with her talk, I think we should go to the Lord and figure out why we feel the way we do. Where I live we are constantly told that having more than two kids is selfish and wrong. You cannot bring up kids “right” here on the east coast when you have to devote yourself to more than two at the most.You have no idea how lucky you are if you live in a community where more children are accepted. I told my dr. we were trying for a third and she flat out told me I was crazy. I have very few friends who have supported me in this. I get this every day. Every day. Constantly. I am happy to hear someone say what needs to be said. I think it’s silly to analyze what she said and turn it into a statement where you have to have 500 kids nine months apart beginning on your wedding night. We are so used to people being so politically correct now, babying us, saying only what we want to hear so we don’t feel bad about ourselves.

    Ten years ago I waited three years after marraige to have kids. I put my husband through school first. I thought, we thought, it was the right thing. I have no problem saying I might have been wrong. Maybe it was a wrong, selfish thing. I am not going to go after Sis. Beck because I want to feel better about myself or I don’t want to admit that I made a mistake. And if I did make a mistake? Then it’s between me and the Lord, and I move on, knowing that He loves me and forgives me and I will do better in the future.

    It’s ok to have difficulties with something a leader has said, but I think it is mean-spirited and wrong to write some sort of statement against a leader who is doing what she feels is right. Why are we so willing to go after her when past prophets have come out with far stronger statements? There are better ways to solve the problem and our feelings then to sign a public letter against her.

  87. Amy
    November 20, 2007 at 1:52 am

    I just read my post and realized I sound super bitter in my first few sentences. Sorry!! I’m really not that bitter! And reading Adam Greenwood’s first presidency “conversation” keeps cracking me up, so it’s all good.

  88. mmiles
    November 20, 2007 at 3:33 am

    I know of a stake where about a year ago the Stake President from the pulpit basically said anyone who wasn’t have children who could was sinning. Fast forward one year and babies everywhere. This is one of the stakes which had recently recombined with another stake, as well as combining many wards. It simply is an extremely expensive area.

  89. Adam Greenwood
    November 20, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Amy, I think you have exactly the right approach, and I’m not just saying that because you gave my joke a courtesy laugh. One point: I hope things like Sister Beck’s talk gets people thinking early on about the real costs to having a family of where they decide to live and the kind of career they decide to pursue. They can make better decisions when fully informed. Thanks to my mother we already had that perspective but not everyone did.

  90. November 20, 2007 at 9:49 am

    “You need to come up with a reason why God would want us to have a lot less children than in the decades before the 80s, one that also happens to explain away the parallel secular decline in birth rates as a coincidence or else somehow also the will of God.” — Adam Greenwood (# 64)

    The saints live in the same world and are wet by the same rain as everyone else. Factors that dampen the fertility of average gentiles affect the saints to some degree as well.

    Time to pull in a marvelous and prophetic passage from Shaw’s Man and Superman (1903):

    ANA. At all events, let me take an old woman’s privilege again, and tell you flatly that marriage peoples the world and debauchery does not.

    DON JUAN. How if a time comes when this shall cease to be true? Do you not know that where there is a will there is a way–that whatever Man really wishes to do he will finally discover a means of doing? Well, you have done your best, you virtuous ladies, and others of your way of thinking, to bend Man’s mind wholly towards honorable love as the highest good, and to understand by honorable love romance and beauty and happiness in the possession of beautiful, refined, delicate, affectionate women. You have taught women to value their own youth, health, shapeliness, and refinement above all things. Well, what place have squalling babies and household cares in this exquisite paradise of the senses and emotions? Is it not the inevitable end of it all that the human will shall say to the human brain: Invent me a means by which I can have love, beauty, romance, emotion, passion without their wretched penalties, their expenses, their worries, their trials, their illnesses and agonies and risks of death, their retinue of servants and nurses and doctors and schoolmasters.

    THE DEVIL. All this, Senor Don Juan, is realized here in my realm.

    DON JUAN. Yes, at the cost of death. Man will not take it at that price: he demands the romantic delights of your hell whilst he is still on earth. Well, the means will be found: the brain will not fail when the will is in earnest. The day is coming when great nations will find their numbers dwindling from census to census; when the six roomed villa will rise in price above the family mansion; when the viciously reckless poor and the stupidly pious rich will delay the extinction of the race only by degrading it; whilst the boldly prudent, the thriftily selfish and ambitious, the imaginative and poetic, the lovers of money and solid comfort, the worshippers of success, art, and of love, will all oppose to the Force of Life the device of sterility.

  91. Fly_on_the_wall
    November 20, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    IMO couples should have children when they decide to have children. I would hate to be the child of a couple who really didn’t want children but felt they needed to in order to follow the prophet. Poor little Johnny not conceived out of love and a desire to have children but conceived because obedience was the first law of heaven.

  92. John Bryan
    November 20, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Several commenters have suggested that Sister Beck’s remarks may be part of an institutional effort to combat dropping fertility among church members. I wouldn’t be surprised. The same could be said of admonitions in a previous priesthood session encouraging post-adolescent males to “become men.” I have to wonder how effective these talks will be if increased parenthood (or desire for parenthood) is in fact the hoped-for result.

    It is good and necessary for church leaders to declare their best understanding of God’s will concerning our reproductive desires. In an ideal world with ideal saints that would be enough. But in this world, leaders are not just conduits; they are also motivators. I’m currently a TQ advisor, and when I look at the upcoming generation of potential husbands and fathers, what I long for are talks (not just in GC but in any setting) that point out the specific joys of marriage and parenting. Hopefully they are out there and have eluded my ears. But I rarely hear attempts to seriously combat the popular image of father as bumbling idiot or of parenthood as a series of unfortunate events. It may be harder to find interesting stories about good and fulfilled parents, but I suspect that church leaders are up to the task. It would help tremendously to instill in youth a vision of joyful parenting if concrete examples could be brought to bear. We cannot assume that the youth of the church can easily see the joy their own parents are experiencing in raising them, or that simple declaratives will have the power to stay the generational trends away from marriage and parenthood.

    I understand that talks emphasizing joy in marriage and parenting will likely be painful to those who wish they could have those experiences but cannot. I think the general trend is that church leaders are becoming more sensitive to this concern, and are getting better at explaining their purpose in discussing potentially painful material in order to ameliorate the negative effect. Perhaps my faith is misplaced, but given the sensitive language used in TTTF, I feel confident that the rhetorical resources are available to share the vision of joyful parenting while offering comfort to those who are not experiencing that joy in this life.

  93. Janet
    November 20, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Kaimi, thank you for putting up the TTTF quotation. Lovely! What an excellent balance of counsel, doctrine, and compassion. Bask bask.

    Since October I’ve been considering the reasons various friends have shared with me for *not* having children–especially in light of my own inability to conceive. The TTTF excerpt does an excellent job of recognizing varying circumstances while avoiding a tedious list. It must offer considerable comfort to those who may have made responsible, inspired decisions against childbearing, as well as to those in the more traditional vein (as usual, I’m in liminal space, having borne no kiddos but happily parenting one nonetheless). Many of us know that about 1 in 6 couples suffer from infertility, but I’m unsure of the numbers who carry heavy physical and mental burdens which might preclude child-rearing as opposed to child-bearing. I imagine the number are higher than we think, and such kind counsel can mitigate the agony I’ve heard from various friends who’ve felt confirmation from God regarding their decisions but who still struggle with institutional counsel.

    Thanks again!

  94. Bob
    November 20, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Having children is a joy. It is also hard, and can bring personal pain in raising them. The Church is not good at teaching this last part. Many young parents feel lacking when they should not. In fairness, the Church needs to tell of both the rewards and costs of parenthood, if it’s to serve it’s members.

  95. John Taber
    November 21, 2007 at 11:08 am

    My observation (in my lifetime – I turn 35 in a few weeks) is that LDS “fertility” in a given time and place tends to stay ahead of the general population, but never way, way ahead. So Italian Saints might typically have two or three children instead of one or two, for instance. Of the families that sent children to the school system I went to, the LDS were largest on average (with five or six, typically), but the very largest (with eight or ten) were Catholic.

    My general interpretation of “multiply and replenish” means to have the 2.1 children that’s your part of sustaining the population, and more if you can. As it stands right now after three years and three months of marriage, my wife (who turns 31 in less than a month) have none. That’s not the way we wanted it, but since that’s what’s happened (so far) that’s what we’ve dealt with. (Right now we’re filling the gap with three hamsters, a guinea pig, seven finches and I don’t know how many fish.) Some of you might have a problem with that, if you did you probably also thought we had shirked our duty by marrying so “late” – at 31 and 27.

  96. John Taber
    November 21, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Yes, God bless Sister Beck for saying that she’s a bad mother for only having three children. Is that it?

  97. Adam Greenwood
    November 21, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Who knows, John Taber? Not everyone feels like they have to retroactively justify every decision they made in life as the best one.

  98. John Taber
    November 21, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    But she didn’t say that. Maybe if she’d had more time she could have elaborated on what looks like an inconsistency on the surface, but is really none of our business.

    I have a problem with the tone of her talk. So do a lot of people. I have a bigger problem with members like you seizing on that tone and assuming that the narrow view you already had of what a good member is, you can now impose on everyone else. I call that unrighteous dominion.

  99. Kristine
    November 21, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    John, the sociologists would concur with your observation–in fact, the LDS fertility rate has been approximately US rate + 1 for most of the 20th century, rising and falling with the general population. Hard to say what effect the internationalization of the church may have on that pattern, though.

  100. John Taber
    November 21, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Did the sociologists consider if the parents were converts – and if so, when they joined? That’s something else I’ve observed among members both here and in Italy (and as a perpetual membership clerk): Those families in the Church with fewer children tended not to have been as active of members when they had their children, if they were members at all.

  101. Bob
    November 21, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    #99: “the LDS fertility rate has been approximately US rate + 1 for most of the 20th century”. This likely true. But what would be the rate for Temple attenders?

  102. Adam Greenwood
    November 21, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Re #98: Feel free to call it unrighteous dominion when I show up at your home with a turkey baster. Until then you’re just huffy.

  103. John Taber
    November 21, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    My brother-in-law went on a mission at 19 when he wasn’t ready, married at 22 when he wasn’t ready, and had a son at 24 when he wasn’t ready. (He is now 34 and just got his third divorce.) If you had your way, he would have been excommunicated had he not met even one of those benchmarks.

    I know your type – the type that says I would have been better off marrying a pregnant girlfriend at 18 than serving an honorable mission but not marrying for more than ten years after, even if it was in the temple. You don’t know how many times I got that, even from leaders. But not one bishop or stake president along the way ever even threatened to deny me a temple recommend just because I was single, or “not dating enough”. Nor have they asked rude questions to Alisa or me about birth control. (That’s something my mother was subjected to – in temple recommend interviews – back in the 1970s. During that time she had four children in five and a half years. I suppose when you’re bishop those questions will be routine.)

    Build your own Mormon equivalent of Ave Maria, Florida if you want to where contraceptives are banned. Don’t condemn those of us who won’t join you there.

  104. Mark B.
    November 23, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Kaimi’s link in the sidebar to the FAQs on led me again to the list of persons who had signed their screed.

    I was interested to note that one Thomas Edward Brady of Boston, Massachusetts, and a Marvin Harrison of Indianapolis, Indiana, had both signed on as “Men Who Support What Women Know.”

    I’m hopeful that more of Mr. Brady’s compatriots will sign up soon. And, who knows, some of Mr. Harrison’s friends will be just as receptive to What Women Know as he seems to be.

  105. Kaimi Wenger
    November 23, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Good point, Mark B. There seem to be more of those, too.

    Interesting that one of the first responses is apparent vandalism. (Clever, sure, but nonetheless vandalism.)

  106. Kaimi Wenger
    November 23, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    John Taber,

    You’re way out of line, buddy. You’ve clearly had some negative run-ins with various members over time. That’s no reason to tell Adam G. that you know “members like you” or “your type” and then suggesting that members of Adam’s “type” are guilty of all sorts of problematic behavior.

    If Adam G. has said anything similar to your rant in 103, please point it out. Trust me, it’s not all that hard to criticize Adam G. for things he actually says. I do this all the time. (grin)

    Otherwise, let’s keep the discussion to actual statements made by actual people. There’s really no need to impute to Adam the views of every overbearing ward member with whom you’ve ever had a run-in.

  107. Mark B.
    November 23, 2007 at 6:12 pm


    I’m just a wee bit annoyed that you didn’t think my comment was clever too. I mean, “compatriots” was easy but “receptive” took me a while, since I was feeling a bit coltish.

  108. John Taber
    November 23, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    So his comment #102 wasn’t out of line? He has gone after me in the past for marrying so “late”. He did imply that Sister Beck, if given the time, would have said she didn’t bear enough children herself and implied that my wife and I have been less than obedient because we don’t have children as of yet.

    And he most certainly has implied that everyone in the Church should reach the benchmarks my brother-in-law did.

  109. John Taber
    November 23, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    But none of that excuses my own behavior. My apologies. Adam, we may not agree on everything, but that didn’t keep us from being friends in the past. I’m going to try much harder to be civil here.

  110. MSG
    November 24, 2007 at 3:06 am

    I’m attempting a light-hearted comment here after reading the many posts and threads concerning when to have children, how many children to have, is it ever correct not to have children, when is it okay to stop having children, what does ‘delaying’ children really mean, etc…and I was recently in SLC where the sight and density of the dark air pollution hanging in the valley alarmed me.
    I had the thought that no child should be breathing this–it was that bad. Sometimes we get very caught up in how many children, or when to have them, etc. when we should also be thinking of the importance of their physical environment –making it healthy for them to live in it—no matter how many we have or when, etc.

  111. MSG
    November 24, 2007 at 3:10 am

    P.S. I hope someone will tell me that SLC is working on the problem!

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