Birth Control and the CHI

Is the Church Always Watching?

The Church Handbook of Instruction has long been the subject of bloggernacle discussion and suspicion. Recently posted on the web, the church received praise for it’s transparent policy.

Still, having the CHI availalbe to the average member is not without cost. In a recent discussion with a friend, I learned that some wards are asking church leadership, including auxiliary presidencies, to read the handbook from cover to cover.  While I hope this practice is not wide-spread, it’s possibility that members are beginning to feel like the CHI is a new set of rules for them to obey.
For example, imagine a woman who is having her last child soon via C-section and has decided with her husband and with the help of her healthcare provider to have her tubes tied after the birth.  This or other types of permanent birth control seem to be common for couples who are done having children, and she feels good about this choice.  Now imagine she is asked to read the CHI as an assignment from her ward and she reads,

Surgical Sterilization (Including Vasectomy)

The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. Surgical sterilization should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent* and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer.

Now, instead of doing what she felt is best for her family, she feels obligated to obey “the higher law” of church teachings (if you can call the CHI teachings) and choose something less ideal for birth control in the future.
Frankly, this scenario is extremely upsetting to me. First, the woman feels that she must be obedient to the rules in the CHI even though she didn’t ask for guidance on this issue.  She is attempting to be righteous and feels obligated to be obedient on an issue the church “strongly discourages.”  I’m sympathetic towards her choice to obey the CHI, because it’s something I might have decided a few years ago.
And yet, I am stunned that the church handbook seems to assert control over this sensitive area of a woman’s life in a way that is so discreet and manipulative.  There would be rioting in Salt Lake City if the one of the General Authorities read these paragraphs during general conference.  Birth control is an issue the church has long ceased to publicly opine on.
Church members should not be required to read the CHI, and if they do, they should be told why they are reading it and given counsel to help them find balance between their own personal decisions and the policy set therein.
Help me understand why you think church members have been encouraged to read the CHI. Have you heard of this happening?

Does knowing how the church stands on surgical sterilization (as CHI policy) affect your birth control decisions? Why or why not?

*I’m aghast that even in the case of someone mentally incompetent, that surgical sterilization should only be done in consultation with the Bishop and after prayer and revelation.


Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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63 Responses

  1. C. says:

    I see where you’re coming from, and yes I don think it’s a way to solidify authority over members, but I semi-disagree. I think members SHOULD read the CHI, if for nothing else to know the official position of the institution they ascribe to. Which is not the same thing as uniformly agreeing with it. You can’t defend/reform/argue over/etc. a policy without knowing what it is.

    • Ziff says:

      I agree that it would be good for members to read the CHI, but it seems a bit much for Church leaders to be assigning members to read it. I hope I’m not just splitting hairs. I do think knowing the policies empowers us as members, so we should read it. I just don’t think leaders should be the ones telling us this.

  2. Jessawhy says:

    Thanks for your comment.
    That’s an interesting perspective. I guess I would prefer the church say nothing at all on surgical sterilization rather than be “strongly opposed” and have its members held to this standard.

    • Ziff says:

      I agree, Jess. It seems odd for the Church to continue to “strongly discourage” surgical sterilization when it has generally so backed off on discussion of birth control. I wonder if this version of the handbook wasn’t perhaps revised without an eye toward its wider distribution (Book 2 being posted online), but that when they revised it next, knowing that it will be put online, they might soften their stance in the CHI to match other official discussion of the topic.

  3. kristine N says:

    My mom chose to have her tubes tied after her fourth c-section because it actually is a health issue. Every c-section increases the risk for uterine rupture, so a woman who has had her babies via c-section has every right to decide to protect her health–especially if her doctor tells her that’s what she needs to do.

    • Amy says:

      I was under the impression from reading your story that it would “seriously jeopardize her life or health” according to her doctor, so I think she is definitely in line with the CHI (if anyone cares)

  4. Rita says:

    It’s now CH2 – but the section you quoted is still the same.

    Personally – I don’t think this is a subject we should feel a need to discuss with the bishop. Bishops often vary in their own opinions on the matter. I think each couple should be able to sort out for themselves. If they desire further counsel then that should be their prerogative. Besides physical health – there are other important issues of emotional well being. I’m done with the guilt trips.

  5. MB says:

    CH 2 is the one that is posted.

    CH 1, which you quote, as far as I can tell, has not been posted by the church.

    I’d be VERY surprised if wards and stakes are asking leaders to read CH 1. Only bishoprics and stake presidencies have copies of those and are to instructed to use them as resources to privately counsel members, using the Holy Spirit as a guide, as needed, and not to make them widely, generally available, most likely for the very good reasons you point out. They aren’t meant to be a blanket mandate for every member in every situation.

    On the other hand, most wards and stakes have a huge challenge getting priesthood and auxiliary leaders to read CH 2 which describes policies and structure for their various organizations. Most often presidencies tend to wing it, and only use the handbook every once in while, which leads to some pretty interesting practices and makes church leaders want to emphasize that people really should read CH 2 instead of just doing what the previous presidency did.

    Are you sure you heard right and that the information source wasn’t a bit confused about which handbook he or she was talking about? It would be a HUGE advantage to an RS president if she read ALL of CH 2, not just the part in CH 2 about RS. Doing so would give her an idea of what the other presidencies are supposed to be doing so that she can better interface and coordinate efforts with them. I think any bishop who was trying to get his ward council to work together charitably and unitedly would love it if all the ward council members had read all of information in CH 2 so that they could work together better.

    I suspect that CH 2 is the one you heard about.

    • Jessawhy says:

      I quoted from the book my husband (EQ pres) has, CH2. I copied and pasted it from the LDS website because it was easier than typing it in again.
      It appears that I have been mistyping. I thought CHI stood for Church Handbook of Instruction. Does it stand for versions 1 or 2?
      If so, I’m referring to version 2, the one online and the one the auxiliaries in our stake were recently trained on.

      The paragraph regarding surgical sterilization comes from CH2.

  6. MB says:

    Whoops. You are right. They moved the information about sterilization to CH 2. It used to be in the old CH 1.


  7. goga says:

    Maybe you ought to consider that, policy is not necessarily God’s law, more like something someone thought was a good idea and thought that it ought to be encouraged. It may be publically available, but certainly not considered canonized.

    Still, it’s whiff in the air clearly ruffles some feathers.

  8. Mz says:

    It seems unfair to people who are healthy and mentally healthy to have more children but just don’t feel it’s the correct thing to do. But I am not shocked that the church attempts to control women in that regard. Really if we are not having children we have more time for school, jobs, and all sorts of other things. We may get ideas…..

  9. Jessawhy says:

    I’m mostly concerned about what this policy, now public, does to members who are aware of the “rules” in CH2.

    For my friend, this means that although her father, a former Bishop, had a vasectomy she doesn’t think she can use surgical sterilization because now that she knows the law, she has to live it.

    Her father (and everyone else) didn’t know the rule and so they were exempt. Now that she (and presumably others who are asked to read CH2) knows surgical sterilization is practically forbidden, they are held to a higher moral law by God.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if people like her would think of this as something that falls into a temple recommend interview, even if they weren’t asked specifically.

    It just makes me so mad. I know that I would ignore this “advice,” but it’s not being presented as advice. “Strongly discourage” is not advice.

    • MB says:

      “Strongly discourage” is advice in my opinion. My adult children have been known to choose to do things that I strongly discourage. And I can live with that and respect their agency and trust their personal revelation for their particular circumstances and I let them know that I do so

      I noticed that in the round table discussion of the recent general leadership meeting it was pointed out that too often “We don’t leave room for the Holy Ghost to help us.” (Sister Beck) So I think church leaders are aware of this not so good tendency to rely on the book and not seek personal revelation.

      If you are aware of the essential nature of following personal promptings you shouldn’t fall into the error of seeing the CH 2 as a book of blanket rules to be followed. That important principle is the actually the very clear second sentence in the introduction to the book, which I hope any reader reads first.

      “Prohibit” is prohibiting, but “strongly discourage” is not. It means take it seriously and make sure you’ve got a go ahead from the Lord before you make that decision. There are plenty of examples from the scriptures where men and women of God were instructed to do things differently than the generally accepted, divinely received general instructions of the time. The key is that they took it seriously and made those decisions hand in hand with God. Personal revelation is the lynchpin.

      I hope you can help your friend understand that.

    • Ziff says:

      Interestingly, when I blogged about this issue a few years ago, Julie M. Smith (and other commenters) suggested that the Handbook was kept under wraps to avoid precisely this situation: where people feel like once they’ve heard this bit of counsel, they’re obligated to follow it.

      Here’s Julie’s comment:

      Perhaps the handbook contains information that should be mediated by your bishop. For example, you only need to hear that vasectomies are “strongly discouraged” if you are the kind of person (or in the kind of situation) where you would ask your bishop about it. Otherwise, you are on your own. If they thought everyone should know that v’s are strongly discouraged, they’d say so in conference. But they don’t.

  10. Mz says:

    Sorry,,,, Maybe the fear is Men will go to the doctor and not telling their wife. I don’t know about tubes being tied but I know in some states the doctor makes women sign a consent form when the husband goes in for a vasectomy. So if the medical community is already making sure men and women agree, then why is the church insisting the bishop be in on it?

    • Alisa says:

      I’m interested to know in what states a wife is required by law to sign a waiver to allow an adult male to get a vasectomy. That sounds incredibly odd and absolutely wrong.

    • SilverRain says:

      Not in Utah. My ex had one and I never knew for more than a year, after we’d theoretically been trying to have another baby for three months.

      And even if it’s required, all they have to do is say they aren’t married. It’s not like medical facilities are going to run a background check.

  11. Jessawhy says:

    You bring up a good point.
    Perhaps the CH2 could have an entry under surgical sterilization that urges couples to discuss and come to agreement on this issue. Then there would be a focus on the couple who really are the decision making unit.

  12. marie says:

    I’ve heard friends lament that they don’t have life-threatening reasons to no longer have children so they won’t feel so much pressure to have more children. There are so many things wrong with that situation.

    If both partners are confident that they are done having children, that should be it. I think surgical sterilization is a serious decision to make, but I cringe at the idea of going to my bishop to discuss something that we should be completely able to decide as a couple. What happened to personal revelation?

    It seems to me that the CH2 policy only encourages bishops to push their personal birth control opinions on couples, especially if they are pro-big family or anti-birth control.

    • Ziff says:

      I’ve heard friends lament that they don’t have life-threatening reasons to no longer have children so they won’t feel so much pressure to have more children. There are so many things wrong with that situation.

      I completely agree. That is so sad! I wish there were a simple way to reduce the pressure, but it seems like it will only ratchet back in small increments, since the Church never (okay, rarely) explicitly disavows a previous practice.

  13. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    I was actually assuming that the referenced paragraph was discussing sterilization as first-option birth control; i.e, people refusing to have children at all. The church does leave the number of children to have up to the couple but it also strong encourages them to have children at all.

    I’m also with the sister who pointed out that the hypothetical friend in the OP could feel sure she was doing it for medical reasons and not need to seek less-sure alternatives.

  14. jks says:

    I like that it says “strongly discourage” in there. There are far too many couples who feel like they are ready to make a permanent decision really early. Vasectomies are so commonplace that it is on its way to being the normal thing once you have two kids.
    There are those who regret their sterilization. Those who regret it are usually those who were in their twenties when they did it, those who did it when one of their children was just barely born, and those who end up remarrying.
    If someone is in their late 30’s and older and their kids aren’t infants, I would assume they know what they are doing. However, if someone is 29 and their kids are 2 and 6 months I would say from experience you have NO idea how life is going to change in the next few years. Wait before making such a huge decision.
    The fact that it is procreation, one of our most precious gifts, means that we should take it seriously. I don’t believe that permanent birth control is always wrong, I do, however, believe that our church leaders are right to caution people against making this decision too quickly or too lightly without truly understanding the possible regrets.

    • Corktree says:

      I don’t see what age has to do with it. I’m not yet in my late 30’s and I have a 2 year old and 6 month old and we happened to believe that it was the *perfect* time for my husband to get a vasectomy, and I don’t think a few years more would make us better able to decide this for ourselves. We also didn’t feel a need to consult anyone other than the urologist. I hope there aren’t people judging us for not risking more children (and I can’t handle hormonal birth control).

      The fact is, having this in the handbook the way it’s stated has the potential to be a stumbling block for people, as Jessawhy’s friend’s situation shows. It either removes the need to think for oneself, gives too much power to someone that shouldn’t have it, or makes people feel unnecessarily guilty. If God doesn’t believe in sterilization, then it should be a revelation. If it’s not wrong, it should be something that couples have to seek out truth for themselves in, and as Jessawhy mentions, come to an agreement between the two of them.

    • Alisa says:

      Surgical sterilization is not permanent for those who truly regret their decision later in life. I have friends who have failed vasectomies. I personally have never met anyone who has had a surgical sterilization in their 20’s because they decided back then they didn’t want kids, only to regret it later.

    • Ziff says:

      Isn’t it also possible that people will put off surgical sterilization and accidentally have more kids than they can handle? Strongly discouraging it isn’t neutral: it definitely favors one type of error/regret (having too many kids) over the other (having too few).

  15. spunky says:

    I suspect that the reason it has been advised in some places for the members to read the CHI is as a result of misappropriated funds, mismanagement of members, etc. In the last 10 years, I have been in branches, wards and stakes wherein male leaders appear to misappropriate funds most likely because they didn’t know how to manage monies… i.e. mostly in directing fundraisers that cost the members much more than if they made a direct donation to (for example) EFY travel. I have also hear (usually male leadership again)- say, “this is what church policy is”- when the action they are describing was a cultural practice that was normal in the church 30 years ago, but is not longer appropriate and was never church policy. So- perhaps it is because there are “leaders” out there that really have no idea how to direct or run the church.

    An example of this is a ward in Australia where the bishop had all sons in Young Men. (The church in Australia does not support scouting at church as a result of the Australian Scout Association’s decision to allow females and openly homosexual people to be scouts and scout leaders.) This bishop directed all fund to YM activities “because YM are more important and we have to protect the priesthood”. The YW had no budget because the money had all been spent on YM programs. I am not sure if the CHI has instructions on this, but to me—this was just short of embezzlement. (This was about 5 years ago in another state, so may have since been rectified)

    Now to be clear: think the birth control thing is ridiculous. Com’on—ask a bishop to get your tubes tied? Really? Ugh. BUT. I went to get together a while ago of a core group of friends who hung out when we were YSAs. All having married, the discussion turned to “getting the snip”- the men made jokes about a certain walk they apparently have after “the snip”- and told funny stories about how they noticed in the large American Wards – how they knew men that had just had the procedure done because of the way the men walked. (They even went and joked with these fellow men about being in “the snip club”)

    I asked if any one of them had obtained permission or spoken to a bishop about having the procedure as according to the CHI. None had. It didn’t occur to any of them to do so, and they disregarded the instruction to discuss it with a bishop as silliness. They also supported that for women- i.e. to ask a bishop about tubal ligation was seen to be as silly as asking a bishop about “the snip”.

    So suffice to say, maybe the handbook in some ways- is equalizing for male and female organizations (although invasively so for birth control), but it also might be a protection to members because of ill-advised or frankly unrighteous leadership that have ignorant or oppressive views on church procedures. Maybe the intent is to protect the masses from the individual misguided leaders. (perhaps some wacky bishop decided to excommunicate for a tubal ligation? or a wacky leader said that a certain man struggling with homosexual thoughts was no longer allowed to attend YM? To be honest, I would be surprise if this sort of thing hasn’t happened. Perhaps it is intended as a protection against some of the wack-jobs we have all seen as “leaders”?)

    Just my $0.02, but there are a lot of wacky people out there.

  16. prairiegirl says:

    I actually am totally not surprised by the Church’s policy. I’ve read it before. BUT–here’s the key–some of the CHI are suggestions–perhaps strong suggestions–but suggestions.

    I am conservative enough to understand fully why the Church has this policy. I do not see it as a way to control women, but instead a way to get people to THINK. There are powers out there in the world who would like to take away all people’s control over their procreation power. In fact, in times past, such groups HAVE taken away such powers–especially for those they’ve deemed as “mentally incompetent”. Thus, the strong suggestion.

    But–if you notice, strong suggestions in the CHI ARE NOT followed by warnings of “this could jeopardize a member’s full-fellowship within the Church”. Policies about situations that could jeopardize a member’s full-fellowship HAVE THIS WARNING!!!!!

    Thus–the point here is that the Church is saying “discuss this as a couple. Seek Spiritual assistance. This is an important thing.” Not “if you go against this council, you’re out!” Do I think every woman should have to consult their bishop about having their ‘tubes tied”. No. In fact, my sister received assistance from our bishop at the time in paying for a hysterectomy because of severe health problems she was having (and she had never had the opportunity to become pregnant). The Church leaders have stated more than once that birth control and how many children couples have is an issue to be dealt with between the couple, the Lord, and perhaps, a Priesthood leader IF NEEDED. This should be no different.

    Also–please remember–taking 1 paragraph out of context of the full section on birth control lessens and/or leads to misunderstanding about the full meaning of what the Church leaders are trying to communicate. Situational decisions are always meant to be just that….based upon the situation.

    But–I can say this–that I would not disagree with a bishop strongly suggesting to a young woman or couple–who did not have any health problems and just wanted to avoid forever the “bother” of children–that they rethink their decision to have their tubes tied/etc.

    • Alisa says:

      “In fact, in times past, such groups HAVE taken away such powers–especially for those they’ve deemed as “mentally incompetent”. Thus, the strong suggestion.”

      Read the policy again: The church allows for 2 cases of surgical sterilization. One is for the mentally incompetant. You suggest that the Church frowns on taking this right away from the mentally incompetant. You couldn’t be more wrong:

      “Surgical sterilization should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent*”

  17. I think this is one area in which the handbook is lagging behind the actual practice of the members. Most members, even fairly conservative ones, won’t think that they should consult their church leaders before making such personal decisions. And it’s true that “strongly discourage” is different from “forbid”–certainly there is no consequence to disregarding the handbook on this issue. In fact, I am 99% certain that both counselors in our current bishopric have had vasectomies. I think that the handbook will eventually change to reflect common practice, because this is one cat that is not going back in the bag.

  18. Starfoxy says:

    Is anyone reading past the first sentence of that excerpted paragraph? They aren’t just saying it is strongly discouraged, they are saying that unless you meet those two restrictive conditions (to prevent death/morbitity or due to mental incompetence) then you shouldn’t even be considering it.
    That doesn’t sound like just encouraging people to not make the decision lightly. That sounds an awful lot like making sure people don’t even think of it as a possible option until their life is in danger.

    • Olive says:

      The church does not teach that family comes first, they teach that God comes first.

      Also, its not that easy to just “not do” what the Bishop says. You can have your temple recommend, membership rights, and/or excommunicated just like *that*. I really don’t think people realize how much control and power your Bishop really haves over you.

  19. Jessawhy says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone.

    Thank you.
    That is exactly my point, although you said it much better..

    Yes, another area where the church lags behind. I do think (hope) my grandchildren will be shocked that this paragraph was ever in the CHI.

    I do think surgical sterilization is a serious decision. So are a lot of other decisions that couples make together, without the input of the church. Permanent birth control is a big step, but it’s a freeing step as well. Lots of people know when they are done having children. Now, it’s true that things can change, but it’s also true that some of these surgeries can be reversed.
    My cousin’s wife had her tubes tied and burned (cauterized?). After she remarried, she had her tubes repaired and then had a baby! It was her 6th, I believe, and it was probably a miracle, but it can happen.

    What’s interesting is that I wonder if by writing this post I’m doing more harm than good. Part of the problem I see is that this section of the CH2 is available to members, but most may not know about it.
    Perhaps as we discuss it here, then with our friends IRL, it will become more well known and people will feel obligated to obey the rules.
    Maybe I’m contributing to the problem instead of the solution by writing this post.
    What do you think?

    • Brittany Kunz says:

      I think you are splitting hairs my friend. To each his own. It’s a guideline. Frankly I don’t see the point in ripping apart every word. I agree with whoever said that it is important for us to know what is in the handbook so we know what is going on, but at the same time not everybody needs to read it. But is does make splitting hairs more interesting.

  20. LRC says:

    It’s pretty hard to live in a society when you don’t know what the rules are. The news about surgical sterilization has been in the handbook for decades (it probably got in there because people asked bishops and bishops didn’t know how to respond).

    A bunch of those men who got vasectomies probably knew about the CHI and still had the operations (and some of the women probably knew about the handbook instructions as well, but probably not “officially” since women’s access to the handbook has been extremely limited until this year).

    And yet the world didn’t stop turning; the men were still called to bishoprics and presidencies. Somehow they were able to balance the “personal revelation” guidelines with the “general church policy” guidelines and adjust the general guidelines when those guidelines were at odds with what they knew to be right for them.

    Does God want us to be obedient automatons who do precisely what we’re told, not one step more or less, always seeking approval/confirmation/direction from other fallible human beings; or does God want us to learn the general guidelines and apply them to our specific individual lives with approval/confirmation/direction from God?

    Do we allow others to govern us or do we govern ourselves?

    • Olive says:

      her point is that in the hands of the wrong Bishop, your entire membership and life could be ruined over something like this.

  21. Rita says:

    Lots to think about. When I made an earlier comment I wasn’t thinking of couples who are still fairly young with perhaps only a couple of kids. Permenant steralization was a decision that was right for me and my husband after 5 pregnancies – one a multiple – and some health concerns. I have one friend who absolutely knew she couldn’t handle more than two children – late 30’s by this time. Another agonized over the decision after four. Give it a lot of careful, prayerful consideration – but I still feel it should be between you and the Lord. Back in the 60’s I knew of two LDS women
    who had abortions after contracting German Measles and after discussion with their bishops – so I do agree there should be some guidelines. I don’t think there were guildlines for bishops then – also at a time when abortion was suddenly becoming socially acceptable for medical reasons.

  22. CatherineWO says:

    I am almost 60 years old, but I had never heard this statement from the CHI until just a few months ago, which makes me very thankful for my good husband who, when I decided I wanted a tubal ligation 24 years ago, was totally supportive. He was a bishop at the time, and certainly knew about this caution (he has always been a stickler to the handbook), but felt the decision was mine to make, since it was my body. So he didn’t tell me about what it said in the handbook. (FYI: we had four children and I was 35 years old).
    As for your question about how this information may adversely affect people who now know about it…
    I know of at least one case where it has had an affect. Someone very close to me just had her ninth child. She really didn’t set out to have this many children, but she is unbelievably fertile, getting pregnant while on every type of birth control she’s tried. She and her husband dearly love their children and they are good parents, but with each of the last three births, she has had serious complications. Her body is worn out and she is more than ready to be done, but because of the Church’s stand on sterilization, she doesn’t feel like that is really an option for her. Yet she is in emotional turmoil at the thought of going through another pregnancy and birth. I know no one with more humble faith than she has, but I ache for her. This is a very personal decision that I believe should only be made between a wife and husband.

  23. Anita says:

    When I was facing this decision a few years ago (as a 30 year old mom of 4), I had one of the most overwhelming spiritual confirmations I’ve ever had that a tubal ligation was the right choice for us. I have never regretted it. I knew what it said in the handbook (and I’m neither mentally incompetent nor seriously jeopardized in health), but I also know that God approved of this procedure for us. I think each couple has to find that same peace–and I hope this statement is dropped from the CHI sometime!

  24. Alisa says:

    I have no plans to talk to my bishop about what I do to my reproductive organs. I can’t imagine anything that would be further from his business.

    Instead of creating these kinds of reproductive health care policies, I would rather see the Church create pro-family policies and programs. Let’s not be pro-family by taking away people’s right to talk to decide with their spouse and health care providers the best option for birth control. The bishop has no need to be invited to those meetings where a surgical procedure is being discussed. If I wouldn’t invite the bishop to my pap smear exam, he has no right to be privy to the discussion that follows with my OB-GYN and stick his oar into the converstaion. It’s private business between two sexual partners and the doctor.

    I doubt most bishops even know how most oral contraceptives work enough to consult with a couple on their birth control options. Do most bishops world-wide understand the number of fertilized embyos that are rejected from an unfit uterine lining from oral contraceptives or prevented by IUDs? The fact that the church favors these early post-fertilization abortions to surgical sterilizations–which prevent the formation of an embryo in the first place–makes me wonder if they really knew what they were recommending when they wrote this policy to keep women on more violent (to the embryo) forms of birth control for the rest of their reproductive years.

  25. Mz says:

    Alisa, some Doctors is what I meant to say. And they have consent forms where there is a place for the wife to sign. BUT the co-signature for the wife to sign is common practice. Which makes it pretty hard to do without your wife not knowing. Tennessee was trying to in 2009 make it a law. But again it is difficult to find a clinic that doesn’t ask for the wives consent. Which was my point about the bishop. There is already a system in place that encourages the husband and wife to decided together.

  26. I’m trying to remember how that went for us. I think the doctor’s office mentioned it, but we laughed, since I was obviously on board because I was the one setting up the appointments.

  27. Breena says:

    The policy is beyond ridiculous. I believe that widely distributing the information will create an expectation in the church that sterilization is almost never appropriate, whether it is “strongly discouraged” or forbidden. Another rule to follow.

    That said, I don’t think the problem in this situation stems from requiring members to read the information or from making the information more widely available. The problem is the policy itself. Should we just be content in our ignorance of the official position of the church? I have to applaud any efforts by the church to make things more transparent. In the short term, it does make things more difficult for those seeking sterilization. However, how can we hope to influence change in ridiculous policies like these, if it isn’t clear what the policies are?

    • Breena says:

      I should add that until the policy is changed (or magically disappears from the CHI without discussion), I’ll happily ignore it.

  28. Heather says:

    I heard this little tidbit of news for the first time a few months ago. No, I did not know that the church strongly discourages vasectomies. I think it’s completely ridiculous and, frankly, embarrassing that the church included this in its handbook. And I think it’s sad that adults always feel like they have to check and make sure everything they’re doing is *allowed* according to the handbook. I’m not making fun of people who do this; I think it’s quite natural when you grow up in the church. All the same, I think it’s sad. It seems like even adults in the church get stuck in a type of adolescence–always needing approval, always feeling afraid that they’re going to get in trouble.

    I felt this way recently when I was writing on a blog about the pantscapade in my ward ( I caught myself thinking: Oh, no! I (or my husband) might get in trouble for this. And then I thought: whah?? I’m 37 years old. I’m actually thinking I might get in trouble for this? Crazy.

    And on the birth control issue–NO handbook from ANYone is gonna tell me how many kids to have. No way, no how. If God him/herself came down and told me to have another baby, I’d tell him/her thanks, but no thanks. My body, my life, my choice.

    So, umm, yeah, I’m kinda opinionated about this. 😉

    • It especially seems odd when juxtaposed with the regular-old birth control section, which says, “The decision as to how many children 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.”

    • Breena says:

      Adults stuck in a highly correlated adolescence. Love it.

  29. Alliegator says:

    I have four kids, and I’m done. I’m physically and mentally healthy (for the most part), but after the emotional strain of my last pregnancy, I know I can’t do it again. Doing it again would CAUSE mental stress beyond what I feel capable of dealing with.

    My Mister is getting snipped, and neither of us have any issues with that. I’m okay with surgical sterilizations being strongly discouraged, but I wish that there was also something included in the paragraph about husbands and wives making that choice prayerfully, as a couple. Seeking the counsel of their bishop if needed.

  30. Davis says:

    The last line is the key:
    “…should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer.”

    That pretty much says it all. I have known about this clause for almost 20 years, but still determined it was the correct thing for us – thanks to the last line quoted above.

    If you aren’t willing to seek divine confirmation about your decision, why do you even care what the Handbook says?

    “If God him/herself came down and told me to have another baby, I’d tell him/her thanks, but no thanks.”

    It seems to me that the only people up in arms about this are the ones that disregard divine input anyway, and in that case, why do they even get involved in the discussion?

    • Alisa says:

      I disagree that not involving your bishop in your birth control decisions means that a person disregards divine input.

      • Heather says:

        Oops–commented before I saw your comment, Alisa.

        To be honest, I have not sought input either from god or from a bishop regarding how many children to have and when. That was entirely up to my husband and me. And I make no bones about it.

      • Davis says:

        I never said anything at all about the Bishop. We never discussed this with the Bishop, nor ever even had the inclination to.

    • Heather says:

      Yes, I suppose I do disregard divine input into whether and how many children I have. But I don’t think that means I can’t or shouldn’t participate in the discussion.

  31. courtney says:

    My husband and I were both urged to read the CHI as part of our callings, and I think it’s a great thing. Then people will be more educated about what the church is teaching. It enables people to make more educated decisions about their membership in the church. (Is that false hope to think people will be discerning while reading the CHI? probably.)
    When my aunt was pregnant with her 9th child, she and her husband (who was the stake president) met with a General Authority, and in their meeting, they inquired about the church’s stance on getting her tubes tied. The GA was very clear that it was not ok, no way, not at all. My aunt was devastated because she was so overwhelmed with their children– emotionally and financially– and she had been seriously depressed for several years.
    The next day, the GA asked to meet with them again, and he apologized. He said he had been thinking non-stop about them. He said he had been speaking to them as just a man who knows what the handbook says. He told them he now wanted to say something as a servant of God, and that every decision is personal. Regardless of what the church handbook says, God will always reveal to you what is right for you, and that might include getting your tubes tied. The decision was completely up to them, and he knew God would confirm their decision of what was right for them individually and as a family.
    So, she ended up getting her tubes tied, and felt so at peace with the decision. I think the key is that the CHI says it’s a personal decision that can be confirmed by prayer.
    I personally think being that outspoken against surgical sterilization is rather outdated, but hey, as long as they give me the out of making my own decisions that can be confirmed by prayer, it doesn’t bother me. No one (in my book) can trump personal revelation.

    • Amy says:

      Thank you for giving this story. Perhaps this is what our church leaders had in mind. I was also very surprised when I first saw that section in the CHI. Because of what I heard on the church’s stance on birth control in the past, I would’ve never thought of talking to my bishop about that. And hopefully those who have done this won’t feel guilty when they read the handbook. I would assume that it just means that it is a very serious decision and not to be taken lightly. Hmmmm…. I think in the past birth control of any form was frowned upon, so it will be interesting to see what they say in the next CHI…

  32. dk says:

    A few comments: I love having access to the CH 2. Now I *know* what some of the guidelines are, so when I’m confronted with information that seems wrong, I can go look it up myself! So much of what goes on in various auxiliaries is because “this is the way it’s always been done”. Now I can go back and say, “Well it doesn’t have to be that way.” I LOVE IT!

    To the point of consulting the bishop with sterilization. Heck no. Ever. In fact, my husband and I had heard that there was something in the handbook about vasectomies years ago, but we still went ahead and had it done. But to be honest, we didn’t verify it or speak to the bishop about it.

  33. Julia says:

    While I have not read all the posts on this topic, I resonate with many of the comments, on boths sides of the issue.

    Years ago, I worked as a therapist for LDS Family Services. As part of the orientation and training, new staff members were instructed to read and basically memorize the policy and procedures manual. The joke was that it was to be kept next to your scriptures and that you were to sleep with it under your pillow at night. It truly was the unofficial, uncanonized authority next to scriptures for how the agency is run, and how decisions were to be made on the local agency level, on up to the LDS Family Services Commissioner level.

    The CHI feels very similar to the LDS FS P & P manual, and with the rule-oriented, high emphasis that is placed on obedience “once the prophets speaks there is no need for discussion or personal revelation” mentality that is common among members and many leaders, I think this concern about the CHI becoming a second, unofficial bible and set of rules, like the Orthodox Jewish 716 interpretations of commandments, that grew out of the original 10, is very real and valid.

    At the same time, it is good to know how to find out what all the 716 interpretations are, should one find oneself crosswise with some unknowingly.

    Now has anyone else heard of the “unofficial handbook”?

  34. Mike H. says:

    My wife & I discussed this subject with 2 different Bishops we had back in the 1990’s. The CHI never came up.

    One scripture quoted to me by one of the Bishop, on this subject:

    D&C 10:4:
    Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end.

    While we are not translating, the idea of pushing yourself beyond your limits is counseled again by the Lord here. And, both of those Bishops hinted they or their wives had something done to stop having children.

    My wife did had high blood sugar issues during pregnancy. Our 3 sons had issues that were finally diagnosed as higher functioning autism. Eventually, I had a vasectomy.

    In retrospect, it was a good decision, in light of how poorly my sons have been treated, due to their condition, by others in the Church. I get blamed for their autism by others, since their children don’t have it, so it must be the parent’s fault. And, too many in the Church won’t get out of their comfort zone to look at the LDS Disabilities web site to find out that “poor parenting” does not cause autism.

    Too bad that many members blur the difference between the infertile & those who choose not to have children.

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