Friday, March 16, 2012

Trying to have it both ways on children

So with general conference coming up, i’ve been thinking about the last general conference—and what with birth control having been in the news here in the US during the past few months, it’s gotten me to think about Neil L. Anderson’s latest general conference address.

I’ve thought a lot about that address, and the comments i made during my semi-liveblog of that conference session still hold true, i think—basically, i think his message was rather muddled, and that he wasn’t successful at explaining whatever it is he wanted to say. This may be why i’ve heard and read his address used by Mormons to support claims that the leadership of the church wants its members to have as many children as physically possible (and perhaps not even stop there), and also that the leadership is cool with its members having however few children they want.

Consider the following lines (not next to each other, as it appears here) from the address:

When to have a child and how many children to have are private decisions to be made between a husband and wife and the Lord. These are sacred decisions—decisions that should be made with sincere prayer and acted on with great faith.

Many voices in the world today marginalize the importance of having children or suggest delaying or limiting children in a family…[Quotes from others went here, including a statement that “a biblical perspective on motherhood” requires having children]…As the world increasingly asks, “Are these all yours?” we thank you for creating within the Church a sanctuary for families, where we honor and help mothers with children.

(That last one was followed by stories of folks having children despite, e.g., still being in school—and this is all presented as a Good Thing.)

Sorry, but this just seems a bit of trying to have one’s rhetorical cake and eating it, too—everybody gets to make a private decision, but in the context that decision is always going to be to have lots of kids starting pretty much right away.

Y’all’s thoughts?


Michelle said...

You had to know I'd have a comment for this one.

I felt the same thing during that talk - that Elder Anderson was trying to say have lots of kids if you can, but also say not to judge those who don't. But I can also say that I think his talk was a breath of fresh air for those of us unable to have the number of children we'd like to have. It's about time that judging people for the number of children that they have was addressed (and I also appreciate the article about infertility in the Ensign back in the fall). I know that people with more than 3 children feel like they are being judged by society for having "lots" of kids. But I've had many of those same people judge me vocally for having just one child. The only people who have insulted me for having one child are members of our church.

Okay, I'm digressing...
My point is that although Elder Anderson's talk didn't necessarily take a stand on this topic, those of us in the infertility world whom I've talked to really appreciated his talk (once he got about halfway through). People, especially women, are so judgmental about family size, so it's sad that this topic has to be addressed in General Conference. But it's also about time that everyone stops treating infertility like it's a dirty little secret. If someone wants to have lots of kids they should just own it and not care what others say. It's a bit more painful when you have absolutely no control over the situation.

So maybe the bulk of his talk was for us infertiles, with the caution to not be judgmental for everyone. (And I realize that the discussion about choosing to have only 1 or 2 is a whole other topic.)

David B said...

Yeah, i was just talking about the first half (third?) of his address. The second half was pretty intensely wonderful, but the lead-in to it, well, not so much.