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:
When married couples are physically able, they have the privilege of providing mortal bodies for Heavenly Fatherâ€™s spirit children. They play a part in the great plan of happiness, which permits Godâ€™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 Godâ€™s children, another purpose is to express love for one anotherâ€”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, childrenâ€”not possessions, not position, not prestigeâ€”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 11:13â€“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 dimensionâ€”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.