For most people, this is a simple enough question. We know how babies are conceived but if you believe in a soul, then the questions becomes a lot more complicated. This question lies at the root of many pro-life/pro-choice debates as well as the many different religious stances on sexuality, birth control, AIDS, and homosexuality. Your take on this question informs your belief in humanity and the essence which separates us from all other creations.
If you’re Mormon, it’s even more complicated. The Mormons believe in the premortal existence. A place where all the little souls of all the babies to be born are hanging out with God. (In the strictest sense, most religions believe in a pre-existence of the soul before it enters human form but surprise, surprise, nobody has made it as weird and convoluted as the Mormons). They also believe in three composite aspects of the human form; spirit, body and intelligence. Intelligence is a common human essence that is put into a spirit body which is then turned into a physical body. So, souls are not just souls, they are spirit bodies with their own intelligence. Still with me?
Unlike so many other religions that just let non-sensical doctrine stand, Mormons take the bold step of trying to explain this one step further. This is where they lead us into crazy land. So, the Mormons believe that since all these spirit body’s are around, they too must have been created. And how did they get created? Why, the same way physical bodies are conceived. So, now we have the Heavenly Father up in the sky with the Heavenly Mother and their infinite spirit body offspring. This is one of those things that makes non-Mormons go “Whu!?” because it is so against what many other Christian religions teach. The introduction of a heavenly mother who co-created each of us is viewed as blasphemous by many and another example of how the Mormons are not truly Christians.
“Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God. All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.” MFP 4:203.
(As a point of interest, the Mormons also believe that there are spiritual tests and challenges in the pre-mortal existence that will inform your later position in life. These learning opportunities are discussed in “councils in heaven” – a sort of department meeting between uncountable spirit bodies and the big honcho, Daddy God. Up until fairly recently (1978) Mormons believed that people were marked with dark skin for being fence-sitters in the pre-mortal existence, in the War in Heaven. Religion is like the Rabbit Hole in Alice in Wonderland – the deeper you go, the weirder it gets.)
The idea of the Heavenly Mother is part of the doctrine of eternal progression. Ooooh, you’re going to love this one. So, the church basically believes that the Heavenly Mother and Father were themselves once spirit children who received a physical body and were then rewarded for their good behaviour by being given a universe of their own. They were begotten from a Heavenly Mother and Father, who also had their own universe. And so on, and so on. This one (obviously) gets murky and the church has made great efforts to distance themselves from this, at least publicly. This is true for many reasons, the most obvious being because the whole idea is insane. It also goes directly against the teachings of the Bible by implying that there is not one God by many Gods and that each of us (if you are a man of course!) can one day hope to be rewarded with a planet and Godhood. It destroys its own basic principle of the eternal family (hard to all be hanging out together when each male is off being a God to his own universe) and leaves the church out there in the same realm as Scientologists and Raeliens. Even some Mormons seem unaware of this doctrine, despite it being a fundamental plank in their Plan of Salvation.
Deciding how many children you want to have is a personal and sometimes difficult decision. My husband and I talk about it a lot and neither one of us is ure how many we want. There are so many factors to consider – the kind of family you want to have, how much money you have, how easy/hard pregnancy is on your body and how hard baby’s are on your marriage. As a Mormon, a third party enters the debate. God. Yup, you have to pray and reflect on whether there are more babies already destined for your family, hanging out in spirit land just waiting for this one chance to receive a physical body and realize their eternal destiny. No pressure there. My SIL has gone against the direct advice of Doctors and had more babies – all because she had received a revelation that there were more spirit babies waiting for her. (Her pregnancies make her sick, sick, sick for the entire nine months and risk her life every time. She has nearly died with three out of four births and I’m not convinced she’s finished.)
So there you have it in a nutshell. Where babies come from. That is, if you are part of a very weird religion. Everyone else just has sex.