Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/LDS "Birth Machines"

Mormon "birth machines"

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods
A work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims

One Nation under Gods, page 289 (hardback)

According to the late BYU scholar Eugene England, Mormon women literally are to become "birth machines" so Mormon males can continue creating and populating various worlds without end.51

One Nation under Gods, page 289 (paperback)

In 1987, BYU scholar Eugene England noted how many "influential" Mormons and LDS religion teachers still saw women as mere "birth machines"—a view he called "one of the more popular rationales for eternal polygyny." Just recently "an increasing number of faithful Mormons" have started rejecting such a notion.51

Author's Sources

Endnote 51, page 578 (hardback)

51. Jessie L. Embry, "Burden or Pleasure?: A Profile of LDS Polygamous Husbands," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Winter 1987), vol. 20, no. 4, 148.

Endnote 51, page 576 (paperback)

51. Eugene England, "On Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Winter 1987), vol. 20, no. 4, 148. England condemned this view, explaining that it was based on a too rigid interpretation of D&C 132:63.

Detailed Analysis

The author and article name, as cited in the hardback, are incorrect. As stated on page 289, Eugene England is being quoted, yet the footnote quotes Jessie L. Embry. The only thing right in the footnote is the date, volume, issue, and page number. Note that the author of ONUG corrected this error in the paperback edition.

Understanding the context of the original article by Eugene England is critical to evaluating if a quote is used properly, particularly when the quote comprises only two words, as it does in this case. Here is the entire paragraph from England's article from which the single phrase "birth machines" was taken:

Suppose it would take a woman, bearing a child each nine months, 60 billion years to produce the spirit children for an earth like ours (the 80 billion or so people demographers compute will have lived on earth by 2000 A.D.). It does not seem reasonable to me that God would require polygyny, with all its attendant problems, simply to reduce that time to twenty or even ten billion years by giving each man four or six wives. If humans can already produce test-tube babies and clones, God has certainly found more efficient ways to produce spirit children than by turning celestial partners into mere birth machines. To anticipate such a limited, unequal role for women in eternity insults and devalues them.

What are the problems with how the author chose to use the quote in the hardback edition? The first problem stems from the very first sentence in England's essay. If one reads the entire essay, one would find the following statement (again, in the very first sentence): "This is an essay in speculative theology." Yet the author presents his two-word "birth machines" comment as orthodox Mormon doctrine, as if a BYU scholar says it, it must be doctrine. This is clearly not the intent of England.

Second, the author clearly states that England views Mormon women literally as the birth machines, dominated by males bent on creating and populating worlds without end. England clearly states that he does not see God making "partners" (not just women) into birth machines. Nowhere does England say that this is a Mormon teaching. He is speculating that he cannot see such a future for men and women, which is understandable.

Third, had the author of ONUG read the entire essay by England and fairly represented what was being said, in context, the reader could have understood that the LDS teaching of Celestial marriage has room for speculation, as do many LDS teachings. Instead, the author indicated that the teaching was set and that LDS women "literally are to become 'birth machines,'" thereby misrepresenting to the reader the nature of this particular teaching.

Fourth, the author twisted England's conclusion to say something which is diametrically opposed to his actual conclusion. England is making the unambiguous statement that he is unable to see a Celestial husband and wife as being "mere birth machines." The author, however, frames a two-word phrase in such a picture that the reader believes England is teaching that Mormon women are literally to become nothing more than birth machines. England says he cannot see how a husband and wife could become mere birth machines. The author says that England declares Mormon women will literally become birth machines.

Lastly, the author of ONUG then uses this faulty version of the England quote as a springboard for his next sentence (page 289) where he states that "LDS scholar Melodie Moench Charles publicly expressed her opposition to such teachings." What teachings were those? The ones that the author misrepresented, or the ones that England never stated existed?