In spite of my constant grumbling about patriarchal religions and the oppression of women, I actually really enjoy being a woman. My hair’s not going to fall out, I can flirt my way out of a speeding ticket, I’ll get less time should I choose to commit a violent crime, and I didn’t have to pay for the dates when I was single. There’s plenty of other reasons why it’s fabulous to be a woman, but I’m keeping this post G-rated. *cough*
However, there’s a lot that sucks about being a woman, and pregnancy and childbirth went into my “sucks” column as soon as I tried it. I’ve met women who enjoy being pregnant and giving birth, and I’ve heard women gush about what a spiritual zenith these experiences were for them. To borrow an analogy I heard somewhere else, I admire such women in the same way I admire people who run triathlons and don’t swear: I think that’s wonderful, but I have zero desire to be them.
It’s easy to understand, then, that an afterlife which involves women giving birth for eternity sounds a lot more like hell to me. Critics of the LDS church have been asserting that this is what Mormonism teaches for ages. For example, The God Makers film states, “Heaven to the Mormon woman is being pregnant for all eternity, one spirit baby after the next.” Responses from LDS apologists usually run somewhere along these lines:
A mental picture is thus drawn [by The God Makers film] which is supposed to be repugnant to today’s “liberated” women and somehow un-Christian. In reality, God has not yet completely revealed the process by which spirit children are added to His eternal family (of which we are all a part). But surely the process is more sophisticated than the nine-month gestation period and pregnancy through which mortal women suffer to give birth. It was only after the Fall that God said to the woman Eve, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” Therefore “pregnant” is a term which in all likelihood is applicable only to the post-Fall mortal condition.
While I agree that the “eternal pregnancy” charge is something of a caricature of LDS belief, it’s not a baseless one. In another post earlier this year I pointed to an LDS Institute manual which taught that LDS deification “involves giving birth to spirit children and setting them on the road to exaltation.” Other LDS leaders have taught it or heavily implied it with a wink and a nod (Bill McKeever of Mormonism Research Ministry is, of course, all over that). I myself have met Mormons who believe it, or are at least open to it; my own husband is one of them. The teaching strikes me as a natural extension of Mormonism’s emphases on the necessity of eternal heterosexual marriage, the sacred nature of motherhood, and the importance of the human body.
Fair is fair though: other Mormon thinkers are against it and see it as incompatible with the teachings of Joseph Smith. Geoff J at New Cool Thang has a good round-up of some of the perspectives on this.
This isn’t actually a post about whether or not Mormons believe in the doctrine of “eternal pregnancy” though, and I have zero interest in debating that. Let’s move on to my point. The other day I was discussing this issue with my husband and he made his case for why pregnancy in the next life would not be so bad. “Your body would be perfect and there wouldn’t be any pain,” he explained. My response involved a lot of British swear words and throwing something at him.
However, not long after we had that conversation, another thought occurred to me. Evangelical Christians believe that procreation was possible in the Garden of Eden. We think that when God commanded Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), He meant they could do it when He said it. Mormons disagree because Moses 5:11 indicates that Adam and Eve were somehow unable to procreate until after the Fall. If we evangelicals believe in pre-Fall procreation then, what was it like? Is it such a stretch to assume that it involved pregnancy as we know it, only in a perfect body free from pain, discomfort, gestational diabetes and stretch marks?
Even better question: When asked what the world would have been like had there been no Fall, most of the evangelicals I know reply that earth would have been “like heaven.” But doesn’t that mean that heaven involved marriage, sex, and pregnancy? And if that’s the case, why do we think Mormons are wrong for believing they’ll be returning to those things in the next life?
I have my own thoughts on the subject, but I’m curious what other evangelicals think. Personally, I’m having a hard time denying the logic in this line of thinking, and it disturbs me greatly.