Saturday, October 13, 2007

LDS and Childbearing

Conference address by LDS relief society president sparks furious debate

In her first LDS General Conference address on Sunday, Beck did not mention the working-versus-stay-at-home issue, but quoted Benson's infamous speech, "To the Mothers in Zion," urging Mormon women not to limit or delay child-bearing.
. . .
She suggested that Mormon women cut back on activities outside the home "to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most."

Within minutes of giving the speech before the 21,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in the giant Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or listening via television, radio or satellite feed, Mormon men and women across the country were furiously responding on Mormon blogs.
. . .
"I'd love to be the best homemaker in the world, but that's not an option for me right now," said Sallee Reynolds, who works for Ascend Alliance, a nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City, addressing poverty issues in South America and Africa. "I have influence on children's lives. They are just not my own children."

The speech made her feel "like an outsider in my own church and inadequate," Reynolds said. "Whatever offering I can give is not enough because I don't have my own kids."

Now granted, few of us have the perception that being LDS was ever childfree-friendly; and the idea that women should stay home with the children is nothing new in right-wing or fundamentalist christian circles. It is, however, interesting that there is a community which would make a woman who is working to save the world feel inadequate simply because she hasn't bred. In its extremeness, it demonstrates merely a difference in degree, not in kind, than the perception that invades more mainstream American society.

It is also ironic that the women making these statements are indeed committing themselves outside the home, albeit to promote the cause of encouraging everyone else to do the opposite.

However, it appears the the singular obligation of LDS women to have many children, as soon as possible, is not unaversally emphazised - at least not in rhetoric. Arguably, the culture itself has made that a priority.

To many Mormon women, she seemed to contradict the church's direction since 1987. The church has never taken an official stand against birth control, for example, nor in recent years pushed members to have as many children as possible. In 2005, Brigham Young University President Cecil O. Samuelson told the school's female science students that the church "is in favor of [children]. This means not only having them, but caring for and rearing them in righteousness." But LDS scriptures and prophets "have not been explicit about things such as number, timing, and so forth," Samuelson said. "This is because not only are these things intensely
personal in terms of decisions, they are absolutely unique in terms of our customized, individual circumstances."
. . .
They also appreciate the teaching of LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, who has spoken repeatedly about women getting the most education they can and not only to be better mothers.

"You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part," . . .. "Set your priorities in terms of marriage and family, but also pursue educational programs which will lead to satisfying work and productive employment in case you do not marry, or to a sense of security and fulfillment in the event you do marry."
. . .
As we wives and husbands prayerfully and unitedly follow the promptings of the [Holy] Spirit, we will be led to fulfill those promises we made before we came to mortality, and we will know joy thereby," Hudson said, "even if our lives are not identical to the lives of our neighbors."

Not exactly a rousing endorsement of the childfree lifestyle. However, the general idea of not having to mirror the lives of the others around us is, in the least, a good start.
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