Thursday, September 18, 2008

Choosing your child's sex

Is it wrong to do things that will increase the odds of your child's gender? Female sperm live longer than their Y counterparts. Purposely trying to have fertilization occur a few days before ovulation so that more X's are around than Y's for conception is a mild form of "gender control." What about centrifuging those X's and Y's when you have to use artificial insemination to greatly increase the odds of which chromosome type fertilizes the egg? Even further, what about selecting an X and doing in-vitro to have a 99.9% success rate with gender selection? Is there any difference between any of these examples and if so, where do you draw the line, if there is one?

My wife and I have thought about this frequently considering that we have three boys and really would like to have a girl. For us it is more of an adoption question. We really want to adopt and we really would like a girl. Is choosing to adopt to get a desired gender wrong, even if our intentions are good? What if you adopt 60% because you can select the gender and 40% for the right reasons. Knowing that we have these personal questions, a close friend recently asked us if we knew the Church's official position and what our personal opinion was on the matter.

I'm familiar with the church's position on most matters for two reasons. The first comes from reading the Church's General Handbook of Instructions a couple of times. During bishopric meetings every Sunday during dental school (I was ward clerk) we would go through a section of the handbook to make sure we were aware of the proper methods of carrying out church activities. Secondly, as part of our biology major in undergrad at BYU Marisa and I had a class called bio-ethics. We went over the major ethical issues involved with biology from genetically modified food to euthanasia (yes, the children in Asia are doing fine!). Because it was a class at BYU we also were fortunate to receive the Church's official position where it had one. I loved this class because we had group sessions where we would decide what was the most ethical thing to do, both for the general public and ourselves as Mormons. There were very interesting times when these two didn't coincide.

I don't remember anything specific from that class on artificial insemination. So I did a Google search. Although you can't blatantly copy (hard or electronic) the handbook, it is ok to have sections copied and given to people for clarification. In that spirit I avoided looking for the handbook online, but don't mind copying a section found on a webpage that shows our policy towards a couple difficult issues such as this:
Artificial insemination is defined as placing semen into the uterus or oviduct by artificial rather than natural means. The Church does not approve of artificial insemination of single women. It also discourages artificial insemination of married women using semen from anyone but the husband. "However, this is a personal matter that ultimately must be left to the husband and wife, with the responsibility for the decision resting solely upon them" (_General Handbook of Instructions,_ 11-4). Children conceived by artificial insemination have the same family ties as children who are conceived naturally. The _General Handbook of Instructions_ (1989) states: "A child conceived by artificial insemination and born after the parents are sealed in the temple is born in the covenant. A child conceived by artificial insemination before the parents are sealed may be sealed to them after they are sealed."
That all seems pretty benign and doesn't tackle this issue of gender selection. I couldn't find anything specific to this issue from the church so if you do, please make a comment. My personal opinion on many things that happen in this life is that we get to choose and then we suffer/enjoy the consequences. This life isn't totally mapped out. I don't think that all people were preordained to be in the exact family that they ended up in. If a 16 year old girl chooses to give in to her boyfriend's wishes and gets pregnant then that spirit will end up with her as the mother. If she chooses to wait until later in her life when she is married to a different man than her previous boyfriend then that spirit will probably have headed to another family. The family the spirit goes to isn't 100% random either. Kind of like a happy medium between the two possible ends of the spectrum. If this is the case, then choosing your child's gender (and how many children you have for that matter) doesn't break down the perfect cosmic tapestry pre-woven in the life before this.

The similar subject of how many children to have can potentially help give perspective on this issue. There are probably many times when a family wasn't "supposed to" have another child, ie-some spirit waiting up in heaven for just this family. They end up getting pregnant. This then gives them the consequence and the joy of getting another spirit in their family. Choosing to (intentionally or not) have another child is totally up to them. So, I guess you can tell which way I lean on the main subject at hand, but I have to admit...I'm not totally comfortable one way or the other. If it came down to actually having the opportunity/necessity to make this decision I would have to go with the standard practice and one recommended in the handbook, together with your spouse take the question up with the Lord. When you get an answer from him you know you are in the right. The tough thing there is what to do when you don't get the 100% obvious answer...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On to politics

Its hard not to blog about politics during this seemingly all encompassing presidential race. I don't enjoy talking about politics the same way I do about religion. They both are touchy subjects, they get people very emotional, very quickly and can create lifelong lasting emotional scars between close people. Furthermore, when it comes to politics I don't feel the same internal impetus that I do with religion. On that note I couldn't resist posting the following...

Marlin K Jensen has been a hero of mine since high school when I heard him give a conference talk on the true nature of humility. I heard him speak again in the MTC and his words resonated with me. I'm sure you know that he has been in the Presidency of the Seventy and is an outspoken Democrat. When talking about the all too common, but incorrect Mormon notion that if you're not a Republican your less righteous than you otherwise could be, Brother Jensen said:

"[This] notion that may prevail in some areas that you can’t be a good Mormon and a good Democrat at the same time. There have been some awfully good men and women who have, I think, been both and are both today. So I think it would be a very healthy thing for the church—particularly the Utah church—if that notion could be obliterated."1

The Church itself has stated in an official statement that, "Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of all major political parties."2

I strongly feel an opposition to both parties, and like many things in both parties. If Obama wins I'll be glad to put part of the racism issue behind us. If McCain wins I'll be happy to see a strong woman become VP. Either way there will be good things that will happen to our country that won't if the other party were to win. Here's to hoping that the party who wins will be the one that makes the most good things happen!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

FAIR is Fair

Most of my closer friends know that I help edit/create some of the wiki articles for FAIR. Not too many people know what FAIR/FARMS is and some that do think it is bad. Below is a post by one of the other editors that spells it out nicely...

Once the Church Finds Out…

by Allen Wyatt on September 6th, 2008

I’ve been a volunteer member of FAIR for years. It has been interesting to watch the reaction of many people—especially the critics—to the work done by apologists in general and FAIR in particular. Some of the reaction is quite comical and, I believe, shows that some people “just don’t have a clue” (as one of my friends used to say).

One thing I’ve noticed is that many critics express amazement and astonishment at the things that FAIR is willing to discuss and consider. I often see reactions among those who have left the Church similar to the following:

The list could go on and on and on. (Actually, it has gone on and on and on for the years I’ve been an observer.) The Church is nowhere near as dogmatic as some critics believe it to be. Individual members, including leaders, are given quite a bit of latitude in their beliefs. Where there is not revelation, speculation is often rife.

One of my favorites is the inevitable conclusion among some critics that “once the Church finds out what FAIR is really doing, they will shut them down.” I guess ten years of existence, multiple mentions in the Church News, and links on the website doesn’t count for evidence as to whether the Church knows about FAIR. Of course, FAIR has always publicly stated that if the Church asks us to shut our doors, we will do it in an instant—we are supportive of the Church and don’t want to do anything of which the Church would disapprove.

Even prominent critics see “good” in the work we are doing, as they see FAIR helping people leave the Church. Consider this quote from Simon Southerton, made just within the past couple of days on a website popular among critics:

FAIR seems to help many who are struggling to make up their minds to leave. If I had my wish, FAIR and FARMS apologists would be given the opportunity to educate the masses in the church about how mistaken people have been about the Book of Mormon narrative.

Simon’s not alone; I’ve seen similar statements from critics over the years, with some saying that FAIR is doing more to help get people out of the Church than any other source. (Perhaps Simon and other critics would like to put their money where their mouth is and actually donate to FAIR. After all, that will help speed up the good they see in FAIR’s efforts.)

In my experience, people who say that FAIR (or FARMS) helped them out of the Church were one of two types of people: those who were already heading out and just perfunctorily checked FAIR on their way or those who are so black-and-white in their beliefs that they couldn’t handle the uncertainty and sometimes ambiguity of the non-doctrinal areas of the Church. (This conclusion is based on nothing more than observation; there are no formal studies in this area, although one would be interesting.)

The fact of the matter is, FAIR addresses difficult questions and criticisms. That we are able to do so drives some critics crazy. That we are able to do so and still maintain faith in a Church they officially left is simply beyond their comprehension.