November 09, 2007

Childless and Mormon

Oprah recently did a show on fundamental Mormon polygamists. The majority of women featured on the show appeared very pleased with their plural marriages and most had over five children each. I did the addition and realized there were over 20 people living together in one home. Whew…

Of course this type of marriage is rare and illegal. One notorius leader, Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and husband to over 50 wives, is currently in jail awaiting his sentence after being found guilty of accomplice to rape for coercing a 14-year-old girl into a marriage with her elder cousin.

The mainstream Mormon Church no longer sanctions polygamy, and there are only a few communities of polygamists left in North America. However, the Church continues to actively support and endorse large families, so I wondered: what is life like for childless or childfree LDS couples?

Kathryn Kidd, a childless Mormon author from Virginia and a contributor to Meridien Magazine, an ezine designed for Latter-day Saints, explored this question in a article titled Other Avenues for the Childless after being contacted by women who wrote about the challenges of childlessness.

Barbara, reflecting on her experience of a life without kids in the LDS community, had this to say:

The biggest problem was lack of any suitable role or role model for women in my position in the Church. There were no childless married women I could relate to, and a lack of friends or peers with whom I could share experience. Church meetings and classes and talks inevitably involve teachings on the family.

Many of the childfree and childless of all beliefs and faiths experience a sense of isolation and some exclusion. However, I suspect this must be harder in a community where having kids is what a contributor to the Latter-day Saint Liberation Front website called one of the "most profound and fundamental mortal obligations."

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twiga92 said...

I can imagine it must be even harder in the Mormon church that is so strong an emphasis on family. I don't get a lot of flack as a Christian for my choice to remain childless, but I do feel like the odd one out in Christian circles. There are so many "family-friendly" activities. What about singles? What about married couples who can't have kids? Why do smaller groups get overlooked? These are rhetorical questions, but still ones that affect my life.

Angry Grrl said...

I've even found a variant of "Breeder Bingo" in the Pagan groups I'm in. You'd think Pagans would take more of a "live and let live" attitude about things, but no. I've gotten all kinds of "You can't really understand The Goddess until you've given birth" crap.

Part of it is that the Goddess imagery is so focused on the triad of Maiden-Mother-Crone that they tend to think that all Pagan women of a certain age should embody the "Mother Goddess" by being a hippie Earth Mama type. Er no, I'm actually more of an Artemis/Diana type, myself...

Some of us have actually become so frustrated by this that we're trying to come up with a replacement phase in the Goddess triad so that Maiden-MOTHER-Crone isn't always in our faces. A lot of us are in our mid- to late 30s and definitely aren't Maidens by any stretch of the imagination, but by the same token, we're not Crones, either.

I think one of the issues is that a lot of religions have at their core the idea that "the tribe" (however it's defined) needs to be increased (more of "us" so we can beat "them"), so children are couched in religious terms as "gifts from God."

Some fundamentalist Christian organizations actually see childfree people as sinning against God. I'm not kidding:

Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion With a New Face.

I think what we're all starting to realize is that we're the front line. CF groups in churches, of whatever religion or denomination, don't seem to exist, so we have to be the ones to make them happen.