The Birth Rituals of the Mormons

by Tracy Jones

The Mormon population continues to grow, and Mormon women are steadily birthing a new generation into the faith. In 2012, Utah was the fourth-fasting-growing state and has the nation's highest birth rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of those births are from the state's largest religious community: Mormons, who make up 62 percent of the state's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Replenishing the Earth

According to the church-issued statement, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the church declared, “that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” Mormons are firmly against abortion, because “parenthood gives us a foretaste of godhood.” They also prohibit having children outside of marriage and believe only married homes can provide the appropriate atmosphere to raise children. Mormons believe a woman's primary role is to have children. However, no church law says how many children women in the church should have.

Pregnancy

Despite their traditional views on abortion and children outside of marriage, Mormons support couples who turn to fertility treatments to become pregnant, states Mormonwomen.org, a site written by women in the faith. Mormons also support couples who pursue adoption or foster care to expand their families. The majority of Mormon women follow traditional medical routes during their care. Women also must follow the “Word of Wisdom,” which encourages healthy exercise and nutrition and abstinence from alcohol, drugs and tobacco. When deciding where to deliver, Mormon women have the choice of a home birth or a traditional hospital birth.

Historical Blessings

According to an article in "The Journal of Mormon History," women were performing rituals in the church as early as 1835 and continued as recently as the 1970s. These were performed by groups of women during critical life events such as marriages and births. During these blessings, women lay hands on the pregnant woman's belly and ask God for a safe delivery and special blessings for mother and child. There's also a history of washing ceremonies for pregnant women prior to childbirth, according to the journal article. Blessings like these are no longer seen in the church, and members now rely on priesthood blessings.

Priesthood Blessings

A National Institute of Health article, “Childbearing and Childrearing Practices in Mormonism,” says most births occur in hospitals, and health care workers are advised that Mormon families are led by the father, process medical information in spiritual terms and may request priesthood blessings. Priesthood blessings are performed by an ordained patriarch and include anointing the person receiving the blessing with oil. Priesthood blessings are common among expectant mothers and mothers and infants who become ill after delivery. After childbirth, Mormon women are relieved of household and child care responsibilities until they heal; other family members or church members help during this time, states the NIH article. Breast-feeding is also encouraged.

About the Author

Tracy Jones is a Jacksonville, Fla.-based multimedia journalist. Most recently, she was a reporter for "The Florida Times-Union," where she wrote about nearly every topic. She is a graduate of the University of Florida's journalism school and has been a reporter since 2000.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images