My mother told me yesterday that my niece is pregnant. Again. She might be having twins. Again. In addition to her other four children. When she gives birth to this second set of twins, she and her husband will have six children under the age of six.
I said, "Oh, dear. Hasn't she figured out what causes that?"
Mom laughed. "Well you'd think so by now!"
Mom says my niece had some spotting recently and there's some chance she's now only carrying one baby.
I saw my niece last July. I think she's about 24 or 25. She had just given birth to their youngest a month or two earlier. She looked exhausted. Her kids are all healthy, active boys. She is a stay-at-home mom. She's active in the Mormon church, as is her husband and all of her (five) brothers and sisters. Her doctor put her on anti-depressants following the birth of her first set of twins, about four years ago.
I asked Mom what the church's stance is these days on birth control. She said she didn't know, because she doesn't "follow that stuff too closely." I asked if that's because it doesn't apply to her any more. She chuckled and said, "Probably."
When I was growing up Mormon, here's the basic message I heard:
The church...is opposed to birth control. However, we advise mothers, and fathers, to be wise in their intimate relations and, if the health of the mother is involved and the welfare of the rest of the family is at stake, parents are justified in following the advice of good physicians, preferably members of the Church, who have high moral standards and will advise such measures only for the protection of the health and life of the mother and other children. (Hugh B. Brown, 1961)
It is the policy of the Church to discourage the prevention of conception by any means unless the health of the mother demands it. It is also the policy of the church to regard marital relations of husband and wife as their personal problem and responsibility to be solved and to be established between themselves as a sacred relationship. (David O. McKay, 1963)
When I attended a church meeting in around 1971 or 1972, a visiting church authority told us, "If you are using any form of contraception, you are jeopardizing your eternal salvation. Period."
I guess the church is less strict now. I've heard (from my Mormon sisters) that in fact contraception is viewed as a strictly private matter and couples are no longer officially encouraged to have more children than is practical. The LDS church's own website says only:
We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.
The tradition and theology of the church are strong in their support of big families. It's the belief of Mormons that "spirit children" are waiting in heaven to receive human bodies on earth and it's the responsibility of every person to do what she or he can to help those children come to earth to fulfill their purpose and eventually return to heaven. It's all part of God's Divine Plan. Great blessings are promised to those who follow the plan.
So my dear young, tired niece is going to give birth to her fifth child and sixth child on the same day in a few months. I'm having trouble seeing it as a "blessing." I think she might be having the same trouble. Maybe not.