The LDS Church and Birth Control

This is not a discussion of my own choices regarding birth control, but an attempt to make the LDS Church’s stance on this point clear as I would consider this topic to be one of a few that are most frequently touched on when questions are asked regarding Mormon doctrine. I think this question is so frequent because the Catholic doctrine regarding birth control is so commonly known, and since we are a Church with a large number of doctrines that come across as very controlling and manipulative (no alcohol, chastity, modest dress) there are those who wonder if the LDS position is similar to the Catholic faith.

I’ve written previously on the emphasis the LDS faith places on the importance of having children. I consider it to be one of the core doctrines of the Church, and think that the Lord has made it abundantly clear that the purpose of life is for an individual to come to be earth to be tested, marry, and have kids (thus providing other souls the opportunity to come to earth and be tested as well).  Leaders of the Church have released statements such as:

Children are one of the greatest blessings in life, and their birth into loving and nurturing families is central to God’s purposes for humanity.

Those who are physically able have the blessing, joy, and obligation to bear children and to raise a family. This blessing should not be postponed for selfish reasons.


The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. The Family: A Proclamation to the World


You came to get for yourself a mortal body that could become perfected, immortalized, and you understood that you were to act in partnership with God in providing bodies for other spirits. . . . And so you will not postpone parenthood. There will be rationalists who will name to you numerous reasons for postponement. Of course, it will be harder to get your college degrees or your financial start with a family, but strength like yours will be undaunted in the face of difficult obstacles. Have your family as the Lord intended. Of course it is expensive, but you will find a way, and besides, it is often those children who grow up with responsibility and hardships who carry on the world’s work. Spencer W. Kimball

In short, have kids. It’s really, really important for you, and for them.

When it comes to how many kids to have, and when, that decision is left up to the individual couple. The General Handbook of the Church says:

Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have a great responsibility not only for bearing children but also for caring for them through childhood…. Married couples should seek inspiration from the Lord in meeting their marital challenges and rearing their children according to the teachings of the gospel.

In a Church that greatly emphasizes the importance of Free Agency, it makes sense that the answer to this question would be “Talk to your spouse, pray about it, work to understand what the Lord wants for you.” I don’t know how many kids we will have, but I’ve always said that we’re taking it one at a time, and this is why. Right now we know we want to have at least one more child after I am at a healthy weight, and when it comes time to talk about another addition we’ll pray about it, together, and decide from there. Someday I will stand before God and answer to my choices and why I made them, this is an area where I depend on the Holy Ghost to help me understand when I am choosing what God wants for me, and when I might be putting my own selfish interests before His.

Elective abortion is the only form of birth control that is strictly forbidden, all others are left up to the individual couple to research and decide upon. On the Enyclopedia of Mormonism site (which is a site run by a group of LDS Editors and does not represent the official doctrine of the Church in all areas) I found this quote which I thought was particularly interesting:

If, for personal reasons, a couple prayerfully decides that having another child immediately is unwise, birth control may be appropriate. Abstinence, of course, is a form of contraception. Like any other method, however, it has its side effects, some of which may be harmful to the marriage relationship.

Sexual relationships within a marriage are acknowledged by the Church to be both for bringing children into the world, as well as bringing a couple close together. I appreciate this nod to the side-effects that complete abstinence can have on a marriage relationship, and the Church’s position allows me to make my own decision regarding what my husband and I need in regards to our intimate life.

What I like even more than the emphasis on the sexual relationship of a married couple though, is the emphasis that the mother’s health is not to be put in jeopardy in order to fulfill this calling to bring more children into the world.

Two stories printed in the Ensign, as told by Dr. Homer Ellsworth, help illustrate this:

I recall a President of the Church, now deceased, who visited his daughter in the hospital following a miscarriage.

I recall a President of the Church, now deceased, who visited his daughter in the hospital following a miscarriage.

She was the mother of eight children and was in her early forties. She asked, “Father, may I quit now?” His response was, “Don’t ask me. That decision is between you, your husband, and your Father in Heaven. If you two can face him with a good conscience and can say you have done the best you could, that you have really tried, then you may quit. But, that is between you and him. I have enough problems of my own to talk over with him when we meet!” So it is clear to me that the decisions regarding our children, when to have them, their number, and all related matters and questions can only be made after real discussion between the marriage partners and after prayer.


I know a couple who had seven children. The wife, who was afflicted with high blood pressure, had been advised by her physician that additional pregnancy was fraught with grave danger and should not be attempted. But the couple interpreted the teachings of their local priesthood leaders to mean that they should consider no contraceptive measures under any circumstances. She died from a stroke during the delivery of her eighth child.

As I meet other people and learn of their circumstances, I am continually inspired by the counsel of the First Presidency in the General Handbook of Instructions that the health of the mother and the well-being of the family should be considered. Thirty-four years as a practicing gynecologist and as an observer of Latter-day Saint families have taught me that not only the physical well-being but the emotional well-being must also be considered. Some parents are less subject to mood swings and depression and can more easily cope with the pressures of many children. Some parents have more help from their families and friends. Some are more effective parents than others, even when their desire and motivation are the same. In addition, parents do owe their children the necessities of life. The desire for luxuries, of course, would not be an appropriate determinant of family size; luxuries are just not a legitimate consideration. I think every inspired human heart can quickly determine what is a luxury and what is not.

My mom had really terrible pregnancies, and counts as one of those cases where it was more important for her not to have another child, than it was to try to bring more children into the world. So far I count myself as an “easy pregnancy” type of person, so my decision regarding how many/when will be based on lifestyle, emotional well-being, and sincere conversations with the Lord to try to better understand His will for me. The thing I am most grateful for? That I chose a husband who feels the same way I do about this topic. As with all important decisions in life, we’re in this together.

The Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost is the reason I am a practicing Latter-day Saint. Without Him, the Book of Mormon would be just another book and I would have no testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each day I strive to feel more of the Spirit of God in my life, and to refine my ability to listen to His promptings that I might not what direction God wants me to take in my life.

I’ve talked a little bit about our pre-earth life, a time when we lived in God’s presence as spirit sons and daughters of God. When we agreed to the The Plan of Salvation, we were agreeing to be placed into a world where our fallen brother Lucifer would have the ability to tempt us to do wrong, thus preventing us from returning to live with God again one day. Our brother Jesus Christ was to be our Savior, and He would atone for our sins. God gave us a marvelous gift when He offered up His Son, but He provided yet another of His sons for us, the Holy Ghost. To put His mission very simply, the Holy Ghost is given to us to bear witness of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and to testify of the truth of all things.

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can saythat Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 1 Corinthians 12:3

1 Corinthians goes on to talk about some of the gifts of the Spirit, including: wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophesy, discerning of prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues. In the Church we are taught that all members given the Gift of the Holy Ghost are blessed with at least one of these gifts, and that we are to work to develop those gifts and use them to bless of the lives of others.

In the Church we make a distinction between what we call the Light of Christ and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Light of Christ is available to all men, regardless of their faith. To quote, “The Light of Christ is the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. The Light of Christ influences people for good and prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost. One manifestation of the Light of Christ is what we call a conscience.”

The Light of Christ is like a force or a presence in our lives, unlike the Holy Ghost which is a personage of Spirit. He is the third member of the Godhead. He can only be in one place at one time, though His influence can be felt everywhere at the same time. Those who choose to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ are baptized, and then through the laying on of hands (a priesthood blessing by those with authority directly from God) are given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. If the Light of Christ makes us good, the Holy Ghost makes us great! We can only feel His power and learn from His when we keep ourselves worthy by obeying the commandments of God.

For me, the influence/whisperings/presence of the Holy Ghost feels very warm and a bit tingly. It’s a feeling that originates from the heart and spreads throughout my body. There have been times in my life when I have been doing things that are contrary to the Will of God, and I would spend many nights on my knees begging for the Holy Ghost to come back into my life. It was only when He wasn’t with me that I realized how much I valued His companionship. No matter how hard I tried though, I could never duplicate the exact feeling that I have come to identify as the Spirit of God. It is peaceful and comforting. There are many who speak of a voice testifying to them, particularly in times of distress or danger, but this has not been my experience. The Holy Ghost communicates with me through feelings, and I must listen closely to discern the intended message.

In Helaman 5 we learn of two great missionaries, Nephi and Lehi, who are out preaching the Gospel. They are captured and imprisoned for the things they are teaching, and as they continue to testify while imprisoned the earth begins to shake and a cloud of darkness overtakes their tormentors. A voice pierces through the darkness:

And it came to pass when they heard this voice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul— Helaman 5:30


This is how I think of the Holy Ghost. A still voice of perfect mildness that pierces my soul. That Husband is not comfortable sharing his conversion story publicly, but each time I’ve heard him retell it, he has spoken powerfully of the moment during his lesson with the missionaries that he felt the power of the Holy Ghost speak to his soul. It was something he had never experienced before, and it changed his life forever. Those who are not baptized can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost as they seek for the truth, but it is only after we are baptized that we are given the gift of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I consider this to be one of the greatest gifts God has given me, next to the Atonement and Free Agency.

“The gift of the Holy Ghost, given to us by our Heavenly Father and administered by one having authority, includes the merciful promise: ‘If ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do’ (2 Nephi 32:5). Through the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, every member of the Church can receive ‘the words of Christ’ directly (2 Nephi 32:3), at any time or place. This personal divine guidance helps us to remain valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ and endure to the end of our days. Isn’t this wonderful! “Have we not reason to rejoice?”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Have We Not Reason to Rejoice?” Ensign, Nov. 2007, 20

11th Article of Faith: Freedom of Religion

 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

This Article of Faith feels incredibly relevant right now, while the debate over Park51 rages throughout the US. Mormons are just as split regarding the issue as everyone else, and the Church has never officially commented on the ability of a private group to build a religious center on ground they own (though they did comment on the shameful plans to burn the Koran). I personally think that the Church hasn’t released an official statement because they don’t really need to. Everything they could say was detailed by Joseph Smith in the article quoted at the top of this post.

The original Nauvoo temple was burned down by an arsonist in 1848 (after the members during that time were forced to abandon their homes and flee persecution by mobs in the dead of winter). The Church has had to fight to build a temple in Phoenix, Arizona. The temple in Boston was originally opened without the steeple on top due to a lawsuit filed by those who calimed building it violated the First Amendment. The first members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were forced to build and abandon far too many times for our religious culture to have so quickly forgotten what it feels like to be told that we can’t exercise our religius freedom.

This tenent of our faith was just as critical 150 years ago as it is today, and we continue to invite all to worshiop how, where, or what they may*.

*Sad that I need a disclaimer for this post, but of course people should worship how they may as long as it’s legal.


Don’t Forget to Pray by Greg Olsen

I’ve been meaning to post about prayer for a long time now, but it wasn’t until someone asked a Formspring question about it that I finally got around to taking a few moments to write out why I think the LDS approach toward prayer is so unique and beautiful. Then, this morning I decided to spend some time reading a conference talk from a past session (it’s General Conference time again this weekend, tune in here if you’d like to watch!) and I chose to focus on Pray Always by Elder Bednar. What an inspiring message he shares, and it was exactly what I needed as of late. Since the birth of T1 I’ve felt like I’m coasting in regards to my spiritual growth and relationship with God.

I really felt the Spirit speak to me when I read this section:

The patterns used by God in creating the earth are instructive in helping us understand how to make prayer meaningful. In the third chapter of the book of Moses we learn that all things were created spiritually before they were naturally upon the earth. 

“And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth, 

“And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth” (Moses 3:4–5). 

We learn from these verses that the spiritual creation preceded the temporal creation. In a similar way, meaningful morning prayer is an important element in the spiritual creation of each day—and precedes the temporal creation or the actual execution of the day. Just as the temporal creation was linked to and a continuation of the spiritual creation, so meaningful morning and evening prayers are linked to and are a continuation of each other.

I had never really considered each prayer as a continuation of another, but as I continued to read the talk a plan unfolded in my mind for how I could make my communication with God better each day. We didn’t listen to General Conference yesterday because we were traveling, but I am looking forward to spending some time this evening snuggled up with That Husband on my in-laws couch, listening to the words of a living prophet and his apostles! I love the Church so much.

Below is my (polished up) answer to a Formspring question about what makes the approach toward prayer different than some other Christian religions. If you would like advice regarding how you might implement some of these ideas in your own life please email me, I would love to talk it over with you.

How We Pray

We open our prayers by addressing God directly, we usually say “Heavenly Father…”. We then thank Him for the blessings we have in our life, and ask Him for the things we need. We close by using the phrase “In the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.” We teach young children to fold their arms across their body, bow their heads, and close their eyes when they pray and when a prayer is being said. There are no set prayers, each person offering the prayer says what they are thinking and feeling in the moment (I talked it over with TH and we both agreed that the Sacrament blessing is not a prayer, it’s a blessing, though this could certainly be considered an exception.) We strive to use thee, thou, thy, and thine to show respect for God. The words and phrases we use in prayer are simple and easy to understand.

We are taught to pray personally morning and night, twice a day as a family, at least once together as a married couple, and over each meal. We also pray before big events in our lives, the latest example in my life being our drive from Dallas to Chicago where we asked that God would keep us safe.

Personal Prayer

Personal prayers are offered morning and night, on your knees in a private place. It’s an opportunity to talk with God and show Him our gratitude, and to ask Him for things that we need.

When I pray morning and night, I do it in or near my bed. I thank Heavenly Father for the day I had, tell Him the things I am grateful for, ask for help with things that are troubling me, and end by asking for help for others who are struggling. I don’t usually speak my personal prayers out loud. This prayer is said the only kind said in first person singular, the rest are said in first person plural.

Sometimes I pray at different times during the day, particularly when I’m having a tough time. When I’m driving, for example. If I pray while I drive  I of course don’t close my eyes or bow my head, but I do turn off the radio and try to eliminate any distractions.

Family Prayer

My parents were really great at holding both morning and evening family prayer, it’s something we haven’t started doing yet because T1 isn’t old enough to know what’s going on. When we have family prayer we kneel as a family. Growing up we never held hands for this, but I’ve known families who touch in some way during their family prayer time.

Couple Prayer

All couples who marry in the temple are counseled to pray together as a couple at least once a day. We pray together, out loud. It helps us grow closer together as we voice our wants and needs, and often I forget to tell him about someone in my life who is struggling and it opens up a dialouge between us when I mention it in our couple prayer. We kneel together as a couple for this.

Public Prayer

Examples of public prayers include praying before meals, praying in church, or praying before big events. LDS members will usually fold their arms and close their eyes without touching, though I’ve also seen families who hold hands around the dinner table. Those listening stay seated if they are seated, or standing if they are standing, but for prayers before large groups (like a potluck dinner or during a meeting at church) the person giving the prayer will usually stand. Anyone can give a prayer to open or close a church meeting, and in Primary the children are encouraged to do so! Once T1 starts speaking we will welcome and encourage his attempts to offer up the family prayer, no matter how rudimentary they are (in fact it’s usually the child’s simple prayers that mean the most I think.)

Most importantly we try to keep a prayer in our hearts (Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man), and listen to the Holy Ghost as we are offering our prayer before God (Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered).

I would love to have other LDS members comment below and fill in with information I might have missed!

Babies in Church

I’m not sure if someone directly asked for a post like this, or if they asked a question on Formspring that inspired it, but I love the idea so much that I plan on writing others for children, teenagers, and single adults, as their experiences are all unique. 

T1’s outfit for church today

There are a lot of babies at church each week. The LDS church is one that stresses the importance of having children, and we take that counsel seriously. It means that services are often punctuated by squeals and cries, but most people don’t seem to mind because it means that there are cute babies to smile at and toddlers to corral as they lurch down the aisles.

When a baby is born the compassionate service committee in the Relief Society (that’s the Women’s organization in the Church) organizes meals for the new mother. The amount of help is catered to each woman and her needs, so if you don’t have family come in you might get meals every other night for a few weeks.

The amount of time a woman waits to return to church varies. I skipped one Sunday, but went every week after that. TH didn’t want T1 to go until he was at least six weeks old because he was formula fed and wasn’t receiving the antibodies he needed from me, so we would trade off. TH would go to our ward at 9, and then I would go to another ward later in the afternoon. I have a friend who just had her third child and she was in sacrament meeting with her baby by the second Sunday! It all depends on how a woman feels.

 Church is three hours long, and it is very difficult to make  it through without having at least one meltdown, especially since a service scheduled from 9am-12pm causes most babies to miss their morning nap. Children are taken out into the hall if they are too fussy, and I always find several other parents walking the halls with their fussy children whenever I am outside. In my Texas stake (a stake is a gathering of several congregations in one area) we were counseled to be careful about taking our children out into the hall too readily (for it can easily become a reward, and they certainly like running around in the halls more than sitting in a pew), and that is something we are trying to do with T1, though I think right now he is young enough that a few trips outside won’t spoil him. 

From what I’ve seen, breastfeeding in church meetings is very rare. I bottle feed, and most women seem to either feed formula or breast milk in a bottle, or go into the mother’s lounge (a room designated for mothers and babies, often very smelly due to dirty diapers being left inside, but comfortable because it has couches and comfy chairs). I’m not going to say much more about breastfeeding because I get really worked up about it, especially when I read accounts from women online who say that their leaders asked them not to breastfeed during sacrament meeting or other church meetings. I love these images of LDS women breastfeeding in an 1971 sacrament meeting that Rixa of Stand and Deliver posted, and I plan to breastfeed (discreetly) wherever I please if breastfeeding works out with baby #2.

Babies stay with their parents in the adult meetings until 18 months, at which time they are (finally!) allowed to enter nursery. Nursery attendance lasts from 18 months to 3 years, and then Primary begins. Toddlers are in nursery for 2 hours and inside they find buckets of donated toys, treats, singing, and a short lesson attempted by the leaders each week. I’ve taught nursery a few times now and loved it!

My favorite religion professor at BYU once said that the sole responsibility of parents with young children is to keep their own kids quiet so others can listen to the messages being taught and partake of the sacrament. Now that I have a baby of my own I see the truth in that statement. I pick up bits and pieces as I go, and when I really buckle down I feel like I learned something, but for the most part it’s a lot of shushing and bouncing to stave off the cries. The upside though? I haven’t felt bored at church for 5 months now!