Reproductive Ethics

April 18, 2004 | 57 comments
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As a result of the ‘saved in childbearing’ discussion, my husband and I came up with two interesting ethical questions:

(1) Let’s say a young couple has decided that they want a family, but they want to adopt all of their children. Is this ethical from an LDS perspective? Would it depend if they were motivated by vanity (the wife doesn’t want her body ravaged by the effects of childbearing), charity (one spouse saw too many starving children on their mission and wants to spare as many of them as possible), or fear (say one spouse’s mother died in childbirth)?

(2) This is perhaps the opposite of the question Gordon was asking about genetic enhancements. Let’s say a couple received genetic counseling and knew that there was a (10%, 30%, 50%, 80%, 100%) chance that a child they produced would have (insert name of horrific disease here). At what point, if any, are they obligated to refrain from childbearing? That is, at some point, do they have a responsibility to not bring a child into the world under such conditiions?

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57 Responses to Reproductive Ethics

  1. Ethesis on April 18, 2004 at 1:28 pm

    Hmm, I knew a stake president, his wife had been a trauma OB nurse and was mentally unable to cope with pregnancy, but they did adopt a lot of kids (back when it was much easier to adopt, especially special needs).

    Interesting thoughts you post, I know that at least fear works as ok enough to not get in the way of Church service.

  2. Mike on April 18, 2004 at 5:19 pm

    I think there is no one answer for everyone.
    For one couple an 80% chance of a horrific disease may exist, but they feel they should still have children of their own.
    another couple may have a 2% chance, or simply be afraid and instead of having children decide to adopt.

    And either way is ok as long as the couple makes those decisions prayerfully

  3. Nathan Cardon on April 18, 2004 at 11:56 pm

    I think that some interesting arguments could be raised here by the notion that the mentally disabled are born thus in order that they can have a body without needing to go through temptation. I don’t know what doctrinal basis there is for that. If premortally they were so good, would they need to worry about temptation?

    But that’s beside the point. If a couple believes said notion and they knew their male children would carry thus-and-such disease, would it be their responsibility to bear the children or not? At what point to their feelings of inadequacy or desires for a healthy family make a differense? Or do they?

  4. Adam Greenwood on April 19, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    Generally, I would say, neither of the three reasons you suggest are acceptable.

  5. john fowles on April 19, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    I’m not sure that such a situation would ever create an affirmative duty not to bring a child into the world. I agree with Mike, however, that a couple is free to choose how they approach creating their family and that they should do so prayerfully.

    Also, stories abound about situations where technology has given couples a heads-up on some potential disaster with their children–e.g. a doctor advising parents not to have any more children b/c of possible complications–and the couple has felt prompted to go ahead with the family anyway, often in spite of some previous tragedy that has scarred them. In such cases, these people are walking by faith. The scary part about that is that when you exercise your faith in such a manner, you are in effect saying what was expressed this time in General Conference: I have faith that things will be all right, but if not. . . . In other words, it is a situation of steeling yourself against what might possibly happen, hoping in faith for a positive outcome of the situation, but being resolved to do endure it if the medical/technological prediction bears out and there is indeed no “happy ending” (at least from our temporal perspective). That’s where the fear-factor comes in for me. In my opinion, it takes a highly refined faith to have such resolve to endure the refiner’s fire in such a tragic situation.

  6. Gary Cooper on April 19, 2004 at 2:45 pm

    The Church has actually spoken directly to your second case, the idea of not having a child because of congenital defects or other maladies that could be passed on, specifically stating that this can be a perfectly legitimate reason to engage in birth control, urging couples to pray about it, of course. As for the first case, adopting deliberately, while I know of no Church statement, though my gut hunch is that the Lord might prefer that the reason was not solely cosmetic. Of course the current church policy is, with so many issues, to encourage couples to commune with the Lord, with the Church avoiding detailed “cover every situation” edicts. I would think that emotional fears would come under the current church policy about birth control being appropriate to protect the emotional health of the mother. If such a couple could handle adoption, great. I could certainly understand a wealthy couple, given the expense of adoption, choosing to adopt solely.

  7. Victor Garza on April 19, 2004 at 3:08 pm

    Yes, and can I hire someone to fulfill my church calling(s) if I find them distracting or burdensome? For instance, can I pay someone to do the duties assigned to me by a representative of the Lord either because (a) I simply don’t have enough time; (b)I don’t like/need the experience; and/or (c) I’d rather serve in another capacity of my choosing?

    On a related note, what if I know that only 20% of my Elder’s Quorum will do their home teaching. Can I simply cancel the program of home teaching in my quorum or alter it somehow so that passing conversations in the halls “count” as do messages on answering machines?

    Just curious.

  8. MDS on April 19, 2004 at 3:16 pm

    Yeah, Victor because cancelling Home Teaching is definitely the moral equivalent of choosing to adopt a child.

  9. Dan on April 19, 2004 at 3:23 pm

    Victor: I enjoy home teaching, and I’m interested in meeting your families. Make me an offer.

  10. charles on April 19, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    Victor,

    If you are being serious I would say no to both your questions. We are given responsibilities that we need to fufill. Paying someone to do work which you are intended demeans the work and does nothing but inflate your pride. We are commanded to pay our tithes which is more than a mere 10% of our income. It is also our time and talents. If someone doesn’t have the time then they should see what things can be changed in thier lifestyle to provide more time, or they should talk to their leaders to see about having some burdens taken from them.

    I understand the frustration of hometeaching. I really dislike going into PEC or ward councils and hearing the RS has 80-90 % and EQ has 30-40. Mostly because RS accepts phone calls and hallway visits in many cases.

    Home teaching requires us to get into the families’s homes, see how they are doing, ask what we can do to help. We are not just visiting with one person. I don’t like my low numbers, but that just gives me the incentive to do better. We’ve gotten a few more families active and as a result just about all the companionships lost at least one person on their list making everyone’s job easier. Wouldn’t it be great if each companionship only had one or two families to steward?

    As for the POST itself. I think families should decide for themselves whether they should or should not have children and for whatever reasons they are. I would hope that if it is for selfish prideful reasons, cosmetics, inconveniences, etc. If it was I would hope that the person is humble enough to recognize it as an issue of pride and try to work around it. Realistically, that recognition will most likely never be made. Adoption is a wonderful choice for many reasons and I don’t think anyone will be faulted for choosing it.

  11. Victor Garza on April 19, 2004 at 5:41 pm

    I was also wondering if I could choose not to die as well. I think the whole experience is just not for me.

    Of course I am being absurd–because the original post is absurd. The notion that adoption could in some circumstances supplant (rather than supplement) biological parenting, where both parents are capable of safely producing offspring, is generally contrary to the doctrines of the Church and the plan of happiness.

  12. Connie on April 19, 2004 at 5:43 pm

    I think some couples are drawn to adoption (even if they are able to have children) because of, not in spite of, their belief system. It takes a heart and spirit of strength to adopt children who are of special needs, and sometimes other cultures. I don’t believe God thinks less of us when we chose to adopt rather than procreate.

    After all, we are all God’s children. Our family is the family of the world united. To show the spirit of Christ in our charity to one another, and to take up the sometimes HUGE task of parenting another of God’s lambs… well, that’s someone who is divinely inspired – whatever the reason.

    Except vanity. That just makes me mad.

  13. Lucas on April 19, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    Victor:

    Julie’s hypothetical is only absurd in the sense that attempts to answer hypothetical questions often fail to address the complexity of factors that determine our choices and behavior.

    It’s hard for me to see how the ‘plan of happiness’ is necessarily ill-served by emotional, pyschological, and emotional health (avoiding the ravages of the body by the effects of childbearing); charity and a recognition of limited resources and immediate needs of others(one spouse saw too many starving children on their mission and wants to spare as many of them as possible); and avoidence of rational fear and acceptance of the prolonged effects of early childhood trauma (one spouse’s mother died in childbirth).

  14. Kaimi on April 19, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    Julie,

    I think you’re on to something.

    Child bearing is a pretty minor part of life, all things considered. Child rearing is what really matters. I don’t think women will get much credit for actually giving birth (especially not now, in an age where giving birth is so much safer and easier). Giving birth is not an act that sets believer apart from unbeliever, or even human apart from animal. Women will receive some reward for it, but only the same reward anyone would receive for enduring an amount of physical pain and danger. And that seems relatively minor.

    Where the real work is, and where parents (both male and female) will be rewarded for their efforts, is in raising good children who follow the Lord.

    Which is easier: giving birth (millions of people pull this off every year, including many who are barely teenagers), or raising a child to the Lord? I think the answer is clear.

    Given the relative lesser importance of actually delivering the babies, I think it is certainly possible that a family could conscientiously choose to adopt, and receive their full eternal rewards.

  15. Victor Garza on April 19, 2004 at 7:13 pm

    Lucas: The plan of happiness contemplates all of the complexities of life and mandates that we march on in a straight and narrow path. We may not like that, but it remains. Are there aberrations and exceptions to everything–yes. Is there wiggle room–of course. But the original post is far outside my perception of the lines. It neither takes into account the role of premortal choices nor consequences in its hypotheticals. I agree that the choice of when and where to have children, and how many to have is between the couple and the Lord. I do not believe the choice whether to have biological children–again if physically capable of doing so safely–is negotiable within the bounds of a loving LDS home. The slippery slope argument posited could be made–and has already been made for some time by the rest of the world– for not having children, having god-children, having pets, taking care of nieces or nephews in proxy for parenthood….etc.

  16. Lucas on April 19, 2004 at 7:50 pm

    Victor:
    “The plan of happiness contemplates all of the complexities of life and mandates that we march on in a straight and narrow path. We may not like that, but it remains.”

    I guess this is where we part. I don’t believe the plan of happiness contemplates anything. As far as I know, the plan is not a thinking entity. So we can contemplate, pray about, or discuss a plan, but it does not contemplate us. It is only as straight and narrow or encompassing of aberrations and exceptions as we make it in conjunction with relevation (and revelation is bound by our very temporal understandings).

    “It neither takes into account the role of premortal choices nor consequences in its hypotheticals.”

    I don’t follow. We act in this world with very imperfect information–especially regarding the specificity and extent of premortal choices. That’s part of the reason we’re hear as I understand it–to fumble our way through and recognize that we are in need of higher assistance.

    “I do not believe the choice whether to have biological children–again if physically capable of doing so safely–is negotiable within the bounds of a loving LDS home.”

    I’ll leave the definition of loving LDS homes for each family to decide. My guess is that there exists LDS couples who love each other very much who, nonetheless, have decided to adopt or remain childless for any number of reasons, including some of those mentioned in Julie’s initial post. We many not like it, ourselves, but they exist and are thus within the bounds.

    “The slippery slope argument posited could be made–and has already been made for some time by the rest of the world– for not having children, having god-children, having pets, taking care of nieces or nephews in proxy for parenthood….etc.”

    These arguments are indeed slippery! It is a logical fallacy to assert that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument or evidence for inevitability.

  17. Victor Garza on April 19, 2004 at 8:01 pm

    You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment … He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence, which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs–to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best…Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

  18. Lucas on April 19, 2004 at 8:19 pm

    I suppose you can quote (?) C.S. Lewis all day, but we can’t dig him up to get us out of a jam everytime. Or can we? ;-)

  19. Ben on April 19, 2004 at 9:11 pm

    An interesting quote edited in an even more interesting way. We recently expelled a graduate student from my department for doing this exact same thing in the online discussion that went with the section I taught. I think that we should all be a lot more careful how we use other people’s ideas.

  20. Kristine on April 19, 2004 at 9:26 pm

    And C.S. Lewis wrote enough that we could surely find a quote that’s actually relevant to the discussion at hand?

  21. Mike on April 19, 2004 at 11:54 pm

    But why is there a requirement that a family bear children?

    And victor seems to say that the initial post says a family that can definately have healthy children- that was one scenario- the other was a couple that likely can not. And, is there a difference in why one would choose to adopt.

    I definately agree that it is also different when it comes to special needs children, or children from countries or backgrounds that would likely not be adopted.

    If a family:
    1. Can afford to have more children in thier family
    2. Has any reason at all that the couple would not want to give birth to more children than they already have (physical or emotional health of the mother or the child)
    and
    3. Feels compassion for children who would not be addopted or would be in much worse situations if not addopted by the family

    Why would there be anything wrong with adopting.
    Further, if there is an injustice being done in that children will be treated poorly if you not adopted by a loving family and by giving birth to more children you are unable to help those children-
    would there then be an obligation to adopt rather than give birth?

  22. Lyle on April 20, 2004 at 1:10 am

    Ben: Academics & folks with advanced degrees may care about attribution…but I am shocked about this expulsion. You destroyed someones life because they failed to attribute? during an on-line forum discussion? I think we should be more careful about discussing ideas & not being so anal about who thought about them or phrased them in a certain way first.

    Why not address the logic directly? If you don’t like how it was edited…address that.

  23. lyle on April 20, 2004 at 1:19 am

    vanity = “the wife doesn’t want her body ravaged by the effects of childbearing” ???

    Ravaged? Well, I guess we’d better alert God that he made a design mistake. Oh wait…woman was made in the image of God. Hm…

    But sarcastic humor aside…Come on folks…I can see this phrase coming out of some uber-feminist, etc…but not a latter-day Saint. If it did…no personal offense meant, but I couldn’t disagree more.

    First, I hope you thanked your mother since she let you ravage her. Second, I hope the man or woman who supports such a view expresses alot of gratitude to the mother of the child they are adopting for being willing to be ‘ravaged’ so that they can adopt a child. Third…I’ll stop before I violate the blogging rules & start yelling about hellfire & brimstone.

    Since I’m not a woman, I’m probably not allowed to comment on this…but oh well.

    Also, I’m not sure I would call this vanity…unless it was used in the BoM sense, where vanity & the ties of the devil are used together to illustrate the subtletly of bondage & sin.

  24. Kristine on April 20, 2004 at 9:44 am

    Lyle, you’re right that we should all thank our mothers for letting their bodies be ravaged. And you are dead wrong to suggest that childbirth does not do violence to a woman’s body. Women bear scars from pregnancy and childbirth for the rest of their lives. Sometimes those scars are merely cosmetically annoying, but often they are more significant–painful reminders of a painful and difficult experience. I wouldn’t say that you have no right as a man to speak about these things, but some deference might be in order.

  25. Frank McIntyre on April 20, 2004 at 9:58 am

    Defining ravage:

    Definition: [n] (usually plural) a destructive action; “the ravages of time”; “the depradations of age and disease”

    this fits perfectly with what childbirth does to _some_, but not all, women.

    Lyly, as fot all the thanking that should occur, you are absolutely right. All those mothers should be thanked profusely for what they have gone through. It is true that for some women it is easy, but get a bunch of mothers together to talk about childbirth and there is typically no lack of horror stories. This is almost a cliche.

    On adoption, I think adoption is a wonderful and very difficult thing. It is probably worth recognizing that healthy (and especially white) newborns are a scarce resource that many people wish to adopt. Infant adoption of healthy American babies may not actually change the number of babies adopted because there is plenty of demand for such children. The only question is who gets the baby, not whether the baby is left in an orphanage.

    This is not true for international and special needs adoptions. In this case one is typically increasing the number of children adopted, which is a much better thing than the above.

    Childbirth is perhaps more like the second scenario. A premortal spirit gets sent down and goes into a home. By childbirth, one is inviting a baby to come to one’s home, increasing the number of slots in good, Gospel oriented homes (let’s presume our hypothetical couple has a good, Gosepl-oriented home). Thus one more child can be raised in the Gospel that couldn’t have if they’d gone to a non-Gospel place in a remote village somewhere or whatever. This is very similar to the case of adopting a child internationally.

    It is not so similar to getting an infant through LDS social services who could place the child in a good home with or without this hypothetical couple, due to the excess demand for healthy infants.

    As for the bsic ethical question, it seems like a family matter the Lord is willing to provide individual consultation on, on a case-by-case basis, hardly temple recommend interview material.

  26. Matt Evans on April 20, 2004 at 9:59 am

    “Giving birth is not an act that sets believer apart from unbeliever, or even human apart from animal. Women will receive some reward for [bearing children], but only the same reward anyone would receive for enduring an amount of physical pain and danger.”

    Kaimi, creating tabernacles for God’s children is good in itself. We, and all forms of life, have been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. The moral worth of child bearing does not arise from the patient enduring of pain — it’s not the moral equivalent of a toothache.

    Of course raising good children is also critical, but the importance of raising children doesn’t negate the importance or commandment of multiplying.

  27. Kristine on April 20, 2004 at 10:34 am

    Frank, I don’t think it’s “easy” for anybody. It’s true that some women have relatively less difficult experiences, but “easy” is probably not the right word. I don’t have horror stories to tell (except for a sort of funny almost-had-the-baby-at-home-in-the-bathtub one), but my body is nonetheless marked forever by the experiences of pregnancy and birth. “Ravage” may be too strong for some women’s experience, but all mothers carry physical and psychic scars of one sort or another.

  28. Frank McIntyre on April 20, 2004 at 10:48 am

    There are almost 3 billion women on this planet. If we were to interview them all, we could probably find at least a few million who would say that one or more of their pregnancies was “easy”.

    Of course when they say “easy”, they mean it contextually, when compared to other pregnancies they had or know about. Well, that’s what I mean too and I thought the context made that clear, but I guess not.

    Don’t start prooftexting posts or we’ll all be in trouble!

  29. Mardell on April 20, 2004 at 10:51 am

    “I agree that the choice of when and where to have children, and how many to have is between the couple and the Lord.”

    Victor you hit the nail on the head. I think it is between the couple and the Lord and if the three of them decide it is better to adopt then who are we to judge?

    Ravage is a very good definiton of what childbirth and pregnacy does to a womens body. My big thing is that my teeth rot everytime I get pregnant. I have 6 crowns and two more on the way, I have 4 root canals and two more that need to be done. That is just my teeth, my joints also hurt ecspecially my feet, my doctor says that it is becaue my system was deprived of calcuim while I was pregnant (and I took all of my vitamins, including extra calcium). That is just pregnacy I have not even started with childbirth. Some women have it easy I do not I always have complications. Every child’s birth has been scary as times ecspecially for my husband.

  30. Frank McIntyre on April 20, 2004 at 11:03 am

    Think of childbirth and adoption in the context of missionary work. Just like teaching discussions and baptizing a new member is a great thing and one that must be done, so bearing a child is a great thing and one that must be done. Of course, it is only step one in helping people get to Eternal Life. Thereafter follows years of nurturing with the good word of God, much like parenting involves years of follow-up on the childbirth, and similar nurturing.

    Adoption is a little bit like reactivation. Somebody bore the child but was unable (or unwilling) to follow through on the years of parenting for one reason or another. Sometimes people get baptized but nobody follows through on the nurturing. So member or missionary goes out and tries to reactivate. In a adoption, a surrogate parent comes in and tries to do the nurturing.

    Without the baptism, there can be no reactivation, thus there are commandments to go out and baptize. Without childbirth, there can be no adoption, thus childbirth is important in and of itself. In a perfect world, every couple would raise their own children, just like in a perfect world, no member would go inactive. But it could well be the case that some people excel at adoption just as some excel at reactivation, and so, given the world we live in, we have reactivators and we have adopters.

    And of course, as has been noted, baptism is an ordinance with explicit scriptural ties to birth. So there are problems with the analogy, but I like it anyway.

  31. B. James Morris on April 20, 2004 at 11:06 am

    I think Lyle makes a good point. Child bearing is painful (and can be traumatic) and the body changes as a result, etc., but it is, after all, the natural process God has given us to bring children into the world. Isn’t “ravage” a bit strong? (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to be sarcastic or make light of giving birth at all.)

    Addressing Julie’s first point, I don’t think adoption should be encouraged if the main reason a couple is adopting is to avoid childbearing. Now, I think there are always special exceptions, but I think they should be few and far between. This hits upon what Victor was talking about in his posts (and I think he has been somewhat misunderstood in this thread). What Victor seems to be saying, in a rather facetious and sarcastic way, is that the Gospel doesn’t teach us to sidestep experiences (in this case childbearing) just because they are painful or incovenient or require sacrifice.

  32. Frank McIntyre on April 20, 2004 at 11:08 am

    Kristine, rereading my post above in response to yours, it sounds snippy. Please ignore the snippy-soundedness.

  33. Frank McIntyre on April 20, 2004 at 11:13 am

    Death is also a natural process. So is cancer. I don’t see why a natural process cannot be ravaging. But this is nitpicking over a word, if you don’t like ravage, pick another word. But it better be a strong word! A word strong enough to handle all the pains of pregnancy and childbirth.

  34. greenfrog on April 20, 2004 at 11:35 am

    It seems to me that while we can find virtue in response to suffering of any kind, including suffering produced by pregnancy, we’re missing an important point if we decide that suffering is better than finding solutions to suffering.

    If the latter were the case, there would be little point to medicine (“quit snivelling and learn the lessons smallpox has to teach you”), warm clothes (“a little shivering is good for you; now go build your igloo”), agriculture (“yeah, we could plant potatoes, but you’re getting a little plump, and starvation would be good for your soul”), and computers (“if you were supposed to work that many numbers, you’d have been born with more fingers”).

    Pregnancy is how we currently reproduce. Finding ways to alleviate the suffering associated with it is all to the good, IMO. When/if our medical science advances sufficiently to no longer require nine months of increasing discomfort resulting from parasitic infestation (come on, you can laugh at that) to perpetuate the species, I don’t think we should expect that truly “righteous” will still willingly undergo the process any more than we expect the truly righteous today to forego anesthesia during surgery.

  35. Kristine on April 20, 2004 at 11:42 am

    Frank, mine was nit-picky too. I’m one of those women who would probably say my childbearing experience has been “easy”–I just wanted to make sure that the relative nature of that terminology was made explicit. And, for the sake of full disclosure, I should confess that I have an irrationally negative response to *men* saying that childbirth is “easy for some women,” despite the fact that I’ve said it myself. It’s not at all fair, but I want to be treated reverentially, as an authority, when the topic of discussion is childbirth. Sorry–I’m trying to be more reasonable!

  36. B. James Morris on April 20, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    Frank: I know pregnancy and childbirth are hard things to bear, and women who go through it should be greatly appreciated. Maybe “ravaged” is the right word for it. Further, I’m not trying to say just because something is a “natural process” it can’t be painful or hard, or that “natural processes” are inherently good for you. (However, cancer is not a natural process in the sense that childbirth is a natural process.) Rather, my point is that the process of pregnancy and childbirth is the only way we can bring children into the world, however difficult it may be.

    Greenfrog: I’m not trying to suggest that the more pain you choose to experience or the more sacrifices you make, however unnecessary, the more righteous you are. I don’t like that kind of mentality in the church either. I’m all for alleviating pain and using technological advances to help us with that. The problem arises, however, when we start sidestepping things just because they seem more demanding then we had supposed, or are painful and hard to bear. And that is what Victor was trying to say. Though I would like him to explain that C.S. Lewis quote.

    If a couple decides to adopt even though there is nothing physically impeding them from having children, obviously that’s between them and the Lord.

  37. john fowles on April 20, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    I don’t want to risk prooftexting here, but on the topic of “ravage” and the rigours of childbirth, I would like to note that a fairly uncontroversial interpretation of walking “through the valley of the shadow of death” is in relation to childbirth. Everytime a woman gives birth, her life is potentially at risk, and yet it is indeed the appointed way for creating new life. It is true that many women do not have disastrous problems as a result, but again, it is a risky business every time.

    I don’t think that it is a mere biological function. I agree with Mike that it is therefore not merely the moral equivalent of a toothache. I felt a little uneasy with Kaimi’s dismissal of the gravity of the act of childbirth itself. I am grateful for a strong and healthy wife who has been willing to go through that trauma for the sake of our family. I can tell you that she was never the same after the birth of our first. From her I have learned firsthand about the spiritual side of the actual physical act of childbirth.

    Of course, I also agree that after a woman risks her life to bring a child into the world, an even steeper road lies ahead: the mother and father must then raise the child to the Lord. But this responsibility does not diminish the merits of childbirth, in my opinion.

  38. Victor Garza on April 20, 2004 at 12:52 pm

    The quote needs no explanation or excuse, unlike many of the weak and selfish posts on this thread.

    Just go multiply and replenish and stop worrying about dividing and conquering! Only the former brings happiness; the latter is a false cover for pride and spiritual retardation.

  39. Kaimi on April 20, 2004 at 1:00 pm

    Victor,

    Your substantive views are welcome here; however, please make sure to post comments that comply with our commenting policy.

    Calling other commenters weak or selfish or spiritually retarded, or otherwise personally unrighteous, is not appropriate.

    (See http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000653.html for guidelines).

    The same applies for everyone — let’s remember to play nice.

  40. B. James Morris on April 20, 2004 at 1:35 pm

    JJ, let’s remember that the name calling rule applies to you too. You’re just inflaming things more.

  41. Nate Oman on April 20, 2004 at 2:10 pm

    Just for the record guys, the site administrators can see the IP addresses from which people post. This is considerably less sinister than it sounds, since we still can’t figure out the real identity of anyone who wishes to remain anonymous. On the other hand, it does mean that if you are posting under multiple names a some sort of way of gaming the comments policy, we can see it.

    Just be civil people…

  42. Lyle on April 20, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    Kaimi: Right…let’s be civil. Yet, let’s ignore the pejorative sense of Victor’s comment & focus on the analysis of why he thinks it is normatively wrong. I for one would like to see some rebuttal. As I’ve stated, I think ‘ravage’ is the ‘rong’ word. Unless everyone that posts here wants to call themselves a “ravager”.

  43. Kristine on April 20, 2004 at 2:38 pm

    Lyle, when you’ve had a baby you can decide how you want to describe the effect on your body. For now, why don’t we just use Julie’s term (since she was, after all, describing some hypothetical woman’s fears about pregnancy, rather than trying to generalize about the appropriate terminology for the damage done by childbearing)? It is a fact that childbearing is a dangerous process which has longterm effects on a woman’s body. There are few other cases where we would say that it is one’s duty to put one’s physical safety and health at risk for the sake of another person–why are we so confident that we can/should require this of all women, regardless of their concerns or fears?

  44. lyle on April 20, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    Yes Kristine, thanks for reminding me of my personal inadequacies & failure to start a family to date. Preciate it.

    And no, Let’s not just use Julie’s term. If you want to talk to about your own experience…fine. But don’t try to speak for the masses of women. I think NOW fails miserably enough at that as it is. Nor do I want to try. However, the term seems fairly judgmental of our Heavenly Parents. That is what offends me & why I suggest a different term.

  45. Julie in Austin on April 20, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    Because we have to be PG around here, I won’t supply you with details about the ‘ravaging’ my body has undergone after 2.5 pregnancies. But if I gave you details, you would agree that ‘ravaging’ might, in fact, be an appropriate word choice here.

    (That said, I think deciding not to bear children for that reason is pathetic. However, my damage is just cosmetic. Some women have serious damage and so I wouldn’t want to be presumptous here. If you were 22 and going to be leaking urine every time you coughed, laughed, or stood up for the rest of your life, do you think ‘ravage’ might be an OK word to use?)

    I think, Lyle, that you may have seen one to many celebrity Moms baring their tummies on the cover of People magazine to have a decent respect for what actually happens to some (not all) real, unretouched body after pregnancy, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding.

  46. Kristine on April 20, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    Lyle, I wasn’t trying to remind you of your personal inadequacies, but of your maleness and the fact that you won’t, in this life anyway, have to go through the experience which you want to describe in more positive terms.

    I’m interested in your being offended on behalf of Heavenly Mother. I’m not sure there’s enough information to reasonably speculate about whether childbearing is similar to any celestial process that she goes through. A reading of Genesis suggests that the damaging and painful parts of childbirth may be more effects of the Fall than of the eternal nature of the process.

    Perhaps you are aware of sources I don’t know about.

  47. Kristine on April 20, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    Lyle, I wasn’t trying to remind you of your personal inadequacies, but of your maleness and the fact that you won’t, in this life anyway, have to go through the experience which you want to describe in more positive terms.

    I’m interested in your being offended on behalf of Heavenly Mother. I’m not sure there’s enough information to reasonably speculate about whether childbearing is similar to any celestial process that she goes through. A reading of Genesis suggests that the damaging and painful parts of childbirth may be more effects of the Fall than of the eternal nature of the process.

    Perhaps you are aware of sources I don’t know about.

  48. lyle on April 20, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    Kristine:

    You are suggesting that Women are punished because of Eve’s transgression?

    I’m not talking about how our Heavenly Parents produce spirit children. There isn’t any revelation on that [side note below]. However, I haven’t heard the term “ravage” used by the 15, or their spouses, or any of the Women leaders of the Church, when talking about bearing children. Does that mean our vocab is limited to theirs? No, however…I doubt (hopefully) that you would get up in sacrament meeting, or teach a young womens class, about how pregnancy will “ravage” the expectant mother’s body. I don’t think that is particularly helpful to anyone; nor does it indicate much respect for our Heavenly Parents. They designed the system…not me, not you…not any of us. If they want to give a “ravaged” revelation…fine. Until then…

    I also differ on your evaluation of whether I will “experience” childbirth or not. When I marry (assuming I do, since I am apparently such a neanderthal), my understanding is that God takes the two individuals and makes them one; with my body become my wife’s and vice versa. Therefore, if she experiences pain…so do I.

    Sidenote: We are made in their image…literally, flesh & bones…with blood changing for Spirit. To me that seems to indicate that Women aren’t punished for the Fall, and that this happens to be the natural way that reproduction occurs…i.e. the divinely approved, appointed way.

  49. Kristine on April 20, 2004 at 4:03 pm

    Lyle, your optimism about sharing your wife’s pain is touching. Still, I respectfully suggest that you should not try to describe the experience to her while she’s in labor–she may well feel that your ability to feel the pain of contractions is somewhat less than hers. Then again, you will probably marry someone more saintly than me, and perhaps when you say “I feel your pain,” she will not be tempted to strangle you.
    And, yes, I’m suggesting that women are punished for Eve’s transgression–we use Genesis 3:16-17 all the time as justification for a gendered division of labor. (I happen not to like that reading much, but I think it’s widely accepted in the church). While we don’t believe that the Fall results in some kind of Calvinist original sin, as far as I know we do believe that some of the effects of the Fall are still with us.

  50. Julie in Austin on April 20, 2004 at 4:04 pm

    Lyle–

    I know you were talking to Kristine, but I am going to assume that she will need some time to scrape herself off of the floor after your assertion that you will feel your wife’s pain in childbirth. (You won’t.)

    I started this ‘ravage’ business (but, please, remember it was hypothetical–not how I would reflect on my personal experience, although it is true). A quick search of lds.org shows that Elder Nelson uses ‘ravage’ to describe the effects of polio. I doubt this was a complaint regarding the One who allows (allowed?) polio to exist. Neither, in my opinion, are the ravages of childbirth the ‘fault’ of the father or of God.

    Lyle, the disturbing conclusion of your final paragraph is that natural reproduction is the only way (divinely appointed, you say). I am I going to hell for having a C-section? An epidural?

  51. lyle on April 20, 2004 at 4:11 pm

    Julie, I don’t think my words stretch to a condemnation of a lives saving medical procedure and/or God’s inspiration to invent a way to reduce pain while in labor. While there are individuals, of both genders, who criticize both practices…I leave it to them to bring it up. I didn’t.

    When you see your spouse and/or children in pain…you feel nothing? You are right, I will not feel the literal physical pain. My point addresses the union of two individuals into one body that some marriage scriptures talk about. Much as a Relief Society President or Bishop might feel pain when a divorce occurs in the ward, or what the Savior feels when we make sinful choices.

  52. Mike on April 20, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    I think saying that women are punished for the fall of eve is different than saying there are specific pains in this world that all experience becasue it is a fallen world that we will not experience when we and the world are redeemed.

    Saying we are punished for Adam’s transgression because we physically die is incorect, but saying we physically die because we are mortal and part of a fallen world would be completely correct.

    It seems weeds on the earth, and pain in childbirth are both part of that fallen nature.

    But I could of course be wrong.

  53. john fowles on April 20, 2004 at 4:33 pm

    I haven’t felt any physical sensation during my wife’s labors except perhaps anxiety. I understand Lyle’s point and I think it is a good attitude to have (to be ready and willing to suffer with those who suffer). But I am grateful that my wife carries that burden and not me!!! (Although I have tried to be helpful. . . .)

    I agree with Mike on the use of the word “punished” in this context. I think we should look more broadly at the plan of salvation to see what the term means as used in Genesis. After all, God would be pretty heavy-handed to “punish” all of womanhood for Eve’s action. Thank goodness for the second Article of Faith. Instead, I believe that childbirth is the way it is not for the purpose of torturing or punishing women (even though I agree fully with Julie about use of the word “ravage” here) but simply because that is the nature of the organism. I think that Lyle might be right that it is patterned after the method of childbearing used in the eternal realm (I don’t see any reason to refute that since we are told we are created in the image of God and that presumably includes biological/physiological functions such as childbearing and eating, etc.). Having said that, though, I concede that that would be speculation to some extent, since we are not privy to such eternal acts of procreation at this point.

  54. Mike on April 21, 2004 at 6:57 am

    and really, whether or not the term ravage is a correct one, we were discussing the fear that a pregnancy MAY do that to some one. Some pregnancies do, even if you don’t like the term or feel that most do not.

    Basically, the question goes back to- is fear a legitimate reason to not engage in bearing children and instead adopt? And if not, does it become so when risks associated with pregnancy are for some reason much higher?

    If a woman is epileptic and can not have children while taking her medication, but can not function anywhere close to normally without the medication is it legitimate to decide to adopt? Especially since the pregnancy would be harder on that woman than on most, actually giving birth would be more dangerous, and chances of the baby receiving damage or being stillborn due to seizures during pregnancy could be high.

    And how is this different than some one who doesn’t have these conditions, but still fears things that can go wrong with pregnancy. If a woman in perfect health is just supposed to suck it up and get over her fer, why not a woman who has higher risk of complications? I mean, a commandment is a commandment is it not? And if some one really has faith they will follow it even if it is harder for them.

    I do not of course feel this way- I think that it is a personal matter that must be made under inspiration.

    But really, the discussion of what ravage means and whether it is appropriate is not really what the original post means. It is semantic- let’s move on.

    But, it would seem that Lyle believes there are occasions when it is ok for a couple to decide to adopt instead.

    So- let us instead of discussing semantics look at where that line is. How much fear does there have to be? Does that fear have to be backed up by real harm? If so what constitutes real harm or real danger? What risk level is innaproriate. Lyle seemed to say that the option of adopting as Julie laid it out is just about selfishness and convenience- but that isn’t what she asked. She talked about specific risks and if they change whether it is ok to avoid pregnancy and instead adopt. If so, how much risk. That seems to be something that hasn’t really been answered fully

  55. john fowles on April 21, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    I noted earlier that I don’t believe that any of the hypotheticals in the original questions would ever create an affirmative duty NOT to bring a child into the world.

    In response to Mike’s questions, I suggest similarly that on the other extreme there is also no point at which an affirmative duty not to adopt arises.

    The only affirmative duty in reproductive ethics, perhaps, is the affirmative duty not to abort a baby absent the conditions acknowledged by the Church for justifying an abortion, and even then only after prayerful consideration.

  56. Lyle on April 21, 2004 at 8:37 pm

    “God also commanded the man and woman “to multiply and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28)—that is, to have children. Another central purpose of marriage is to bring children into the world within a family.” Proc. on the Fam.

    So…
    1. Does “have” mean adopt? or any other way to ‘get’ kids?
    2. Does “bring” mean adopt? or any other way to ‘get’ kids?

  57. john fowles on April 22, 2004 at 12:25 am

    I don’t think that either of those sentences from the Proclamation imply that adoption is inappropriate.

    The first sentence is an acknowledgement of the purpose of gender and of humanity’s participation in the Plan of Salvation by multiplying and replenishing the earth. It seems to me to be a general statement about the purpose of sex and the role it plays in the plan.

    The second sentence merely points out that marriage is the avenue for bringing children into the world. It gives people in this age of moral fragmentation a reason to marry instead of just living together. Children ideally need to be brought into the world through marriage relationships for their own emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Unfortunately, many children do not benefit from such righteous choices of parents. Thus, there is a great need for adoption.

    I think that a couple is still fulfilling this observation in the Proclamation by adopting. By adopting a couple brings a child up in the world within a family–and gives the child eternal blessings in doing so. I don’t see why you would want to make God so rigid that he only means that each couple HAS to have their own children to be good parents and to fulfill the plan of salvation. If the couple has prayerfully made the decision that adoption fits their needs better, I would think that they are doing the right thing. The adopted children will not think differently, I suspect.