Selected LDS quotes on birth control

The following is a collection of historical LDS (Mormon) quotes on birth control. These quotes are in no way to be construed as official positions on the subject, and are only provided to hilight the wide range of LDS opinions on it.

These quotes have been taken from a packet of papers which in the past was distributed by a number of sources at BYU.

Editors' comments have been put in italics and surrounded with [square brackets]. Editors' comments that are directly ascribable to ME (Sean Luke) are followed with a '---Sean'. All other comments are from the packet, not from myself. Errors or typos should be brought to the attention of may have blown it.

Packet Header

[I'm not the author of this: I don't know who is--Sean]

The following series of statements from LDS writers and General Authorities are chosen primarily for contrast, as an accurate selection which can serve to generate more legitimate discussion of the matter among our people.. recognizing that everyone can cite a favorite quote or anecdote from an "authoritative" source to bolster whatever personal view they hold, we hope these few quotes may serve to move discussion to the more honest matters: historical context, audience, consistency with other gospel principles, public pronouncements vs. private practice, subjective meaning of terms, etc., etc. We have not attempted that here: the only extensive and thorough treatment in LDS literature to attempt such is: "Birth Control Among the Mormons: Introduction to an Insistent Question", by Lester E. Bush, in Dialogue, a Journal of Mormon Thought X(2):12-44, 1976, which Bush insists is not yet definitive, but certainly is the only legitimate discussion yet available.

The present collection merely follows a hallowed, time-honored but deplorable LDS tradition: proof-texting. They reflect honestly the sentiments of the larger articles from which they are often extracted, but no attempt is made to analyze, interpret, or reconcile.

The personal correspondence statements come primarily from the manuscript, "Population Control and Church Policy", prepared by request of the General Authorities by selected researchers primarily from the staff of BYU.

"Harsh" Comments

Relief Society Magazine

3:367-368, July 1916
Joseph Fielding Smith

Those who attempt to pervert the ways of the Lord, and to prevent their offspring from coming into the world...are guilty of one of the most heinous crimes in the category. There is no promise of eternal salvation and exaltation for such as they...

Millennial Star

6:174 and 7:30-31, 1845

Woman is capable of bearing one child per year.

[Orson is not here specifically discussing birth control, but rather is trying to calculate the number of spirits present in the pre-existence and the amount of time required for a Heavenly Mother to have produced them; he argues that Her reproductive capability was (is) essentially the same as that for mortal mothers ("...heavenly things are, in many respects, typical of earthly...") Cf. also The Seer 1:38-39, March 1853]

Relief Society Magazine

3:364 July 1916
Rudger Clawson

God's command, while it did not specify the exact number of children allotted to woman, simply implied that she should exercise the sacred power of procreation to its utmost limit.

Relief Society Magazine

4:69, 1917
George F. Richards

My wife has borne to me fifteen children. Anything short of this would have been less than her duty and privilege.

Liahona: The Elders' Journal

8(2):36, 1908

Elder B.F. Cummings, ed.

[In earlier days, any form of contraception was often considered "killing" or "destroying" offspring; the distinctions made today between contraception and abortion were often not made. In response to the questions: "Is it wrong for married people to refuse to have children when they can have them? Is it right for a poor couple to have a large family when the mother is sickly and the children receive very little care?", the following statement was given:]

Neither poverty no impaired health on the part of either or both parents can be pleaded in justification of pre-natal destruction of offspring. The soundness of this view will become apparent if the form of the question is slightly changed, thus: 'Is it right for a poor couple to kill some of their children when the wife is sickly and the receive very little care...'

"Softer" Comments


to Arnold Haymore, May 1, 1939
Heber J. Grant

...married couples who, by inheritance and proper living, have themselves been blessed with mental and physical vigor and are recreant in their duty if they refuse to meet the natural and rightful responsibility of parenthood. Of course, in every ideal home the health of the mother, as well as the intelligence and health of the children should receive careful consideration.

Private Correspondence

June 16, 1947
David O. McKay

The Church does not approve of any form of artificial birth control. It would seem, however, that in your having four babies within five years of your marriage, you are submitting your body to an almost superhuman test, especially with your threatened affliction of arthritis. The proper spacing of your babies is your responsibility. The mother's health should be one of the first consideration. Certainly it will be to the blessing of your little ones--those with whom you are now blessed and others yet to come--if you will keep well and strong so that you can give them proper care.

Private Correspondence

September 11, 1963
David O. McKay

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.

Private Correspondence

October 6, 1961
Hugh B. Brown

The 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.


From Hugh B. Brown: His Life and Thought p. 288, Eugene E. Campbell and Richard D. Poll
Hugh B. Brown

I'm speaking now for myself, and I think the brethren would agree, we feel that we'd better not make any sweeping pronouncements...because of the difficulties which result. There are so many different conditions in the homes, different people to deal with, that this whole question of birth control becomes very much involved and very complex.

But, as a general rule, we say to our young people, the purpose of your marriage is to have children. If you wish to regulate or space those children, that's up to you. We're not going to follow anybody into their bedroom. I think freedom in this matter ought to be understood.

Cornerstones of a Happy Home

Satellite fireside broadcast
Jan 29, 1984, then distributed in the pamphlet of the same name
President Gordon B. Hinckley

Only the other day a letter came to my desk from a woman who wrote at length of her troubles. In a spirit of desperation she asked, "Does a woman have any promise of some day being a first class member of the human race? Will she always be a piece of chattel wrapped in a chuddar acting only by the permission of the man who stands at her head?" (A chuddar, incidentally, is a very simple shawl worn by women in India.) She then continued, "To me the answers to these questions are no longer important, but I have daughters. If it is possible for a woman to look forward to an eternity of anything than being barefoot and pregnant, I would like to be able to teach them this."

There is bitter tragedy in the lines of that letter. I fear there are many others who may feel that way. The situation is tragic because it is so extremely different from what our Father in Heaven would have for his daughters. Behind this woman's words I see the picture of a wife who is discouraged, starved for appreciation, ready to give up, and not knowing which way to turn. I see a husband who has defaulted on his sacred obligations, who is calloused in his feelings and warped in his perceptions, who denies through his manner of living the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt that there has been fault on her part as well as his, but I am inclined to think that his is the more serious. [p. 2]

[p. 6, after counseling men to improve their dealings with their wives:] I am offended by the sophistry that the only lot of the Latter-day Saint woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It's a clever phrase, but it's false. Of course we believe in children. The Lord has told us to multiply and replenish the earth that we might have joy in our posterity, and there is no greater joy than the joy that comes of happy children in good families. But he did not designate the number, nor has the Church. That is a sacred matter left to the couple and the Lord. The official statement of the Church includes this language: "Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have the greater responsibility not only of bearing children but of caring for them through childhood, and should help them conserve their health and strength. Married couples should exercise self-control in all of their relationships. They should seek inspiration from the Lord in meeting their marital challenges and rearing their children according to the teachings of the gospel (General Handbook of Instructions--1983--p. 77)"

LDS Church Policy (pre-1999)

General Handbook of Instructions
March 1989, p. 11-4

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, Husbands should help their wives conserve their health and strength. Married couples should seek inspiration from the Lord in meeting their marital challenges and rearing their children according to the teachings of the gospel.

LDS Church Policy (post-1999)

Church Handbook of Instructions
January 1999

It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spirit children of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many chldren to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.

Married couples also should understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a means of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.


9(8):23-24, 1979
Dr. Homer Ellsworth
Gynecologist and former member of the Melchizedek Priesthood General Committee
[and approved by the First presidency prior to publication]

[responding to: Is our understanding that we are to propagate children as long and as frequently as the human body will permit? Is there not any kind of "gospel family planning", for lack of a better way to say it?]

...Thus, on the family questions, if we limit our families because we are self-centered or materialistic, we will surely develop a character based on selfishness. As the scriptures make clear, that is not a description of a celestial character....

...But, on the other hand, we need not be afraid of studying the question from the important angles--the physical or mental health of the mother and father, the parent's capacity to provide basic necessities, and so on. If for certain personal reasons a couple prayerfully decides that having another child immediately is unwise, the method of spacing children--discounting possible medical or physical effects--makes little difference. Abstinence, of course, is also a form of contraception, and like any other method it has side effects, some of which are harmful to the marriage relationship.

As a physician I am often required to treat social-emotional symptoms related to various aspects of living. In doing so I have always been impressed that our prophets past and present have never stipulated that bearing children was the sole function of the marriage relationship. Prophets have taught that physical intimacy is a strong force in strengthening the love bond in marriage, enhancing and reinforcing marital unity.

[regarding 1 Cor. 7:4-5, Joseph Smith Translation] ...Abstinence in marriage, Paul says, can cause unnecessary temptations and tensions, which are certainly harmful side effects.

...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...

The Daily Universe (BYU)

February 12, 1996:5
Lauren Comstock quoting Hinckley's speech to students:
President Gordon B. Hinckley

"If you will nurture and build your homes on these four cornerstones [referencing the "Cornerstones" pamphlet quoted previously --Sean] you will have happiness, there will be food on your tables, clothes on your backs and shelter over your heads," he said.

"Build solid homes," he said. "I don't care about the size, I care about the spirit."