"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Maternal Martyrdom

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Maternal Martyrdom

Laestadianism’s rejection of contraception is an important topic, literally a matter of life and death for some women. There is no excuse for an institution to discourage its members from considering all viewpoints on such a grave matter, especially when it claims that those members are accepting life-threatening pregnancies in accordance with their individual consciences. Read on, and let others do the same. A copy of this essay is available at examinationofthepearl.org/mm.

Laestadian women need to open their eyes before any more bleed to death on the sacrificial altar of a faith that requires their fertility for its survival. 
Like the Second Temple Judaism that preceded it, Christianity is a religion based on blood sacrifice. That may seem like a jarring summation of a faith that is, for the average believer, less about theology than the happy commotion of little children playing, the smell of hot dish warming in the church kitchen, and the joy of singing songs that are as beloved and familiar as the hundred other voices ringing out from the pews alongside you. But it’s the harsh reality behind all the love and comfort: Jesus’ “blood of the covenant” was “poured out for many” (Mark 14:24, NASB), just as Moses took the blood of young bulls “and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:8, NASB).

The Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio (Wikimedia Commons)
The sacrificial victims were not just animals or the one who was called the Son of God. Judges 11 tells us of Jephthah vowing to God that he would make a human sacrifice in exchange for permission to do a bunch of other killing, and fulfilling the vow with his own daughter. God even commanded the Israelites to give him “the firstborn of your sons,” the same as they were to do with their oxen and sheep. “It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me” (Exodus 22:29-30, NASB). Then there is the Old Testament’s most famous story of human sacrifice, where Abraham was about to slice open his 12-year old son until God stopped him.

Ever since the Epistle to the Hebrews, that incident has been showcased by Christian writers and preachers as a test of faith that Abraham passed. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (Heb. 11:17). This past Father’s Day, the pastor of the Rockford, Minnesota LLC devoted his sermon to Abraham’s “leap of faith,” the fact that “he had to kind of shut down his thinking.” He couldn’t think about it, or “use his carnal reason,” because, the preacher admitted, “what God asked of him was inhuman, was—if we say, in a human language—it was wrong. It was something nobody should do.”1

Well, what are you supposed to do when God (or the voices in your head) tell you to “take your son and offer him as burnt offering unto me”? Never mind your natural response that “This is inhuman. This is wrong.”2 Just obey: “If you don’t understand, you believe.”3
The same blind obedience is being expected of Conservative Laestadian women regarding contraception, even when their lives are at risk.

Mothers on the Altar

The same blind obedience is being expected of Conservative Laestadian women regarding contraception, even when their lives are at risk. They must put their bodies on the sacrificial altar, or risk the damnation of their souls instead. It is a picture that Hanna Pylväinen paints vividly in her new book We Sinners, with the story of a Laestadian mother having her seventh child, an experience that torments her economically, emotionally, and physically.

The woman’s pregnancy is a dangerous one, and the latest in a long parade of C-section deliveries puts her on an operating table, studying the looming medical equipment: “bags of blood hanging like deflated lungs, collapsed balloons, and their readiness paralyzed her” (2012, 145). She describes the sensations (“a pinching in her chest,” “the feeling of being made of many numbed parts”) and the despair (“she had run out of fantasies–out of husbands to imagine, homes to build, pianos–there was nothing, only life itself, only long and hard and always more of it, always more,” p. 145). Then an image comes
to her of her abdomen as prey, ants to jelly on the counter, jelly on the knife, and she thought about Abraham and Isaac, about Abraham tying Isaac to the table, and she wondered how long it took him, and did he tie Isaac carefully. She thought she would try to get up, but she couldn’t, she was bound, or her muscles were, and she said, or thought she said, I don’t want to die, as if to ask God Himself to hold the scalpel. [p. 146]
The cords binding mothers to the birthing bed and operating table were very real in the 1970s. It was a “lenient mind” that would put “pity for the mother before having love in the truth concerning family planning, especially then when humanly speaking, the birth could appear dangerous,” according to the August 1976 edition of the LLC’s Voice of Zion newspaper. In 1979, from the other side of the Atlantic, the SRK’s Päivämies matched the dogmatism: “Never in any form does the prevention of human life come into question for God’s children.” But, there is always the eternal consolation prize: “Even if it were to happen that a believing mother or child would die in childbirth, or during pregnancy, they would go to heaven.”

Nine Patch Self-Portrait by Linda Frost
It may be tempting to consider all that an artifact of a harsh and misguided period of Laestadian history, when wrong spirits ran rampant and caretaking meetings of wayward church members were a weekly spectacle. But the pastor of the Phoenix LLC dispels any such illusion in his Mother’s Day sermon from this year. He tells the story of a “dear sister” who was faced with “a childbirth that was going to cause her to die.” She had been warned by her doctors “that if you have another child, the chances are very great that the mother will die.” She and her husband decided–on their own! As if the expectations of a high-pressure religious environment played no part–“that they would trust in God’s goodness.”4
“It became evident that there was nothing the doctors could do to save this mother’s life.” They had already done their job—by warning the mother that she was playing Russian roulette with her uterus.
Well, “God’s will” turned out to have little to do with the mother’s health. She became pregnant and, “after the birth of that child, it became evident that there was nothing the doctors could do to save this mother’s life.” No, they had already done their job—by warning the mother that she was playing Russian roulette with her uterus. With evident emotion, the pastor recounts the dying mother’s denial of any bitterness about the outcome, and how she said, “I would much rather go to heaven with a clean conscience.” I don’t know if she left any kids behind, but if so, any pangs of guilt about leaving them without a mother are never mentioned. And again we hear the praise of blind, uninformed faith: “How simply this husband and wife trusted in the goodness and the protection and the care of the Heavenly Father.”5

Now, the “pillar and ground of truth,” which Conservative Laestadianism has the conceit to call itself, can’t quite bring itself to talk this way when it knows the public is listening. Then it mutters acknowledgments that the wisdom of man, in the form of medical professionals, might just have something to say on the topic. The SRK Secretary-General Tuomas Hänninen’s recent statement in response to a question from the Finnish news site Kotimaa24 is an example of the doublespeak:
The use or rejection of contraception is not a matter of authorization for each individual case, but rather a question of faith. Life is full of choices, and a person who wants to preserve faith and a good conscience makes the choice from that basis. In extreme cases, and for health reasons, it is good to listen to the treating physician. [Ijäs 2012, emphasis added]
Another example is from a few years earlier, in the SRK’s Päivämies newspaper:
Believing fathers and mothers have comprehended as an unrelinquishable value the scriptural teaching that God is the Lord of life and death. He has the power to give life and the power to take it away. For this reason in our Christianity, we have considered children as gifts from God; they bring blessing, joy, meaning, and richness to our lives. That’s why even the parents of large families have wanted to accept children, even though it has perhaps meant that they have had to give up certain things. The basis for Christian parents’ decisions has been obedience to God’s Word, faith upon God as the omnipotent Creator, and trust in His guidance and care. . . . The preservation of the life of both the mother and child is important. A doctor, who has great professional ethics, helps humanity and respects a patient’s wishes by preserving life and maintaining health. Surely parents do not relate belittlingly to their doctor’s assessment given from a medical perspective. In difficult situations, faith guides us to make decisions based on preserving life according to God’s Word. [No. 5, 2009, emphasis added]


If you are an exhausted, desperate mother faced with the possibility of yet another pregnancy, perhaps a life-threatening one at that, the stakes are unthinkably high. Don’t you have the right to understand just why you should subject yourself to that peril? Or should you just tune out everything but the men who sit at their pulpits and urge you, as the Rockford pastor did, to put blind trust in God, “trust his congregation. Let us trust this congregation more than ourselves.”6
If you are an exhausted, desperate mother faced with the possibility of yet another pregnancy, perhaps a life-threatening one at that,
the stakes are unthinkably high.
It is telling that he describes the reasonable speculations Abraham might have had after hearing the divine death sentence pronounced on his innocent son, to wonder “if God exists, if this is just nonsense, foolishness, the creation of my own mind. Maybe I should turn back, go back home, and try to forget the whole thing.”7 But God was there, the preacher says, and showed Abraham what he was to do. And when God speaks, you’d better listen. As Luther put it, “we must simply maintain that when we hear God saying something, we are to believe it and not to debate about it but rather take our intellect captive in the obedience of Christ” (Lectures on Genesis, Ch. 3, v. 5).

Perhaps the most detailed attempt at a defense of Conservative Laestadianism’s anti-contraception position to ever see print is a document that Seppo Lohi presented at the SRK’s 2009 Summer Services. His argument is mostly grounded in tradition, with little biblical support. First, he cites the Genesis commands to “be fruitful and multiply,” which he considers to have established “new life” as “a fundamental task of marriage.” He makes a bizarre appeal to Mark 10:6-9, Jesus’ directive about the permanence of marriage. And he rounds things out with statements in Mark 10:14 and a few verses in Matthew 18 about receiving and becoming as children (Lohi 2009).

The Genesis commands are the strongest of some very weak arguments. Lohi gets some help from Luther there: “Therefore, the word of God, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply,’ is not a command, but more than a mere command, namely a Divine Act, not being in our power to hinder or neglect” (Lohi 2009). But Mark 10:6-9 (What God has joined together let not man put asunder) has absolutely nothing to do with contraception. Neither do Mark 10:14 (“Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me”) or the verses in Matthew 18 (e.g., “Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven”).
When Judah learned that his daughter-in-law was “with child by whoredom,” his response was, “Bring her forth, and let her be burnt” (Gen. 38:24).
This is all explained in §4.7.6 of my book, under the subheading “Human Rights Concerns.” And, as discussed there, it is a tricky business to rely on the Bible to establish the sanctity of life. Exodus 21:22 imposes a mere civil penalty for hurting a pregnant woman and causing her to miscarry. Leviticus 27 places monetary valuations on human life (less for women than men, naturally), and assigns no value at all to infants less than a month old. Hosea rants against Ephraim that he will “slay even the beloved fruit of their womb” (9:16). The people of Samaria had “rebelled against her God,” according to Hosea, so “they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up” (Hos. 13:16). When Judah learned that his daughter-in-law was “with child by whoredom,” his response was, “Bring her forth, and let her be burnt” (Gen. 38:24). Not much concern there for the unborn child. It was only when she produced some things that Judah had left during his own sexual encounter with her that he backed down. Oops, never mind!

Well, then, is there no biblical position against contraception worth talking about, other than that “be fruitful and multiply” business? In her book Quiverfull, Kathryn Joyce cites those Genesis passages, and also two others that fundamentalist Christians have relied on to oppose contraception: Psalm 127, with its talk about the fruit of the womb and arrows in a quiver, and “the biblical story of Onan, slain by God for spilling his seed on the ground” (2009, 146). Let’s take a look at these three main points in turn.


Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” It was very important for a man (certainly not a woman) in that patriarchal society to have heirs who could continue and extend his household with its livestock, landholdings, buildings, slaves, etc. Look at the story of Abraham and Sarah, and how important it was for him to have a legitimate heir. (Ishmael got pushed aside as soon as Isaac was miraculously born, as the story goes.)
It was very important for a man in that patriarchal society to have heirs who could continue and extend his household.
Laestadian doctrine has long fancied that there is some vague cloud of unconceived children floating out there somewhere who are all God’s property. They wait to be conveyed into existence one after another by women who have no option but to bear them and fill some man’s quiver. Along those lines, the Phoenix pastor makes much of the way his sermon text (1 Sam. 1:27-28) says that Hannah (the biblical figure, not our new novelist) “lent” her child to the Lord.
Anna presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli,
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
 (Wikimedia Commons)

Well, of course she did; the child was Samuel, who was destined to become an important prophet. But you can’t make that a generalization of God’s views about children, not when he slaughters so many of them without hesitation—in Sodom (children weren’t even considered as part of the ten “righteous” whose presence would have spared the city, Gen. 18:32), in Egypt (the passover plague, Exod. 12:29-30), and in Midian (“kill every male among the little ones, Num. 31:17). Remember, this was the God who inspired the Psalmist to write, “O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones” (Ps. 137:8-9).

There is a subtle but important issue in calling the fruit of the womb “his” reward, as the KJV does. With such wording, it is understandable that one might view the fruit of the womb as something God can demand as his own. But other translations render the passage without that possessive pronoun, and with no such implication of ownership or control:
NASB: “Behold, children are a gift [or heritage] of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”
Luther (my translation from German): “See, children are a gift [Gabe] of the Lord and the fruit of the womb is a present [Geschenk].”
Finnish (1776): “Katso, lapset ovat Herran lahja, ja kohdun hedelmä on anto.”
One could see the same possessive implication in the KJV when it calls the fruit of the womb a “reward.” The other translations call it a “gift” or “heritage,” putting the emphasis on the child as something from God. Wasn’t the next generation more a bounty given to mankind–when God looked favorably on them–than a tribute owed to him? In the ancient world where women were expendable, dominated, and possessed, the “fruit of the womb” was produce, in an all-too-literal sense.

This leads to the second point of Scriptural support: God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. He said it twice, first after the creation of Adam and Eve and then after Noah parked his ark on the mountainside. Well, actually it was never said. Not in either of those stories, anyhow, because the stories are not true.

Evolutionary science completely disproves the ancient Creation myths of Genesis. (Yes, myths, plural—there are two conflicting stories in Gen. 1 and Gen. 2-3.) At no point was there any first pair of humans standing around having to be told to make babies and populate the earth. Every early human, no matter how many thousands and millions of years back you go in prehistory, had parents who had reproduced without any divine sex education and were pretty much human themselves. “In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some ape-like creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point where the term ‘man’ ought to be used” (Darwin 1871, 226). And it is just not possible for the entire human race to have descended from a single father and mother. Genetic evidence now makes clear that there have never been fewer than about a thousand members of Homo sapiens throughout the more than 100,000 years of its existence (Coyne 2011), which began in Africa, not Mesopotamia.

Noah’s flood supposedly concluded with kangaroos continent-hopping around the world to Australia, and with God making his second pronouncement about replenishing the earth. Those who believe this story, an obvious adaptation of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, are in a dwindling minority even among Conservative Laestadians, certainly among those in Finland. One ordained SRK priest with whom I’ve corresponded expressed shock and disbelief that people in the LLC actually take the story seriously. The LLC preacher who said to someone back in 2009, Why is Ed worried about Noah’s Ark? None of us believe it, either, was just being honest about the situation. (Though not so much when he took part in a meeting a year later, where I would be pressured to profess belief in, among other things, Noah’s Ark.) Rather than belabor this posting with the devastating critique that the story deserves, I refer interested readers to Jason Long’s 101 Reasons Why Noah’s Story Doesn’t Float.

Now, let’s suppose–against overwhelming evidence–that the Eden and the Noah stories are true. Do they actually have anything to do with Christian doctrine? No; despite centuries of earnest exposition by Christian preachers from the Gospel writers onward, they do not.

The Fall myth wasn’t even about original sin. The Bible mentions nothing about it until Paul finally comes along with his “one sinner, one redeemer” idea in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. What happened here (as with the supposed messianic prophecies that never quite add up) is that Christian theologians went back and looked over the ancient Scriptures and invented ways to give historical credibility to their new story about Jesus. Another example is God clothing Adam and Eve with animal skins in place of their fig leaf aprons. Saying that God did so as a precursor to Jesus’ sacrifice is just something Christian theology made up. One could just as easily say that God replaced the fig leaves because he knew that Jesus would someday curse a fig tree. He did, and it is just about as relevant–that is, not at all.
There’s nothing special about the life of a speculative not-yet-conceived child here. It’s all about submission. That is, I think, also largely the case in Laestadianism.
Even if you make the two gigantic leaps of accepting the stories as accurate and also relevant, there is still the issue of God’s commands in the Old Testament being overruled in the New. Through his claimed representatives or directly, God commanded all sorts of crazy and horrible things in the Old Testament. Almost all of it is forgotten and ignored by Christians today. The usual excuse is that Jesus fulfilled the law and thus the Old Testament doesn’t apply. Of course, for some reason, one still must honor one’s father and mother, avoid “sitting in the seat of the scornful,” and not hunt or fish on Sunday. When there is a handy verse to be found in the Old Testament that supports somebody’s idea of right and wrong, they don’t hesitate to pluck it out and quote it.

“Be fruitful and multiply” fares no better than the command to avoid sitting on furniture used by menstruating women (Lev. 15:20), for a number of reasons. First, with seven billion people, the earth has been replenished beyond the Genesis writer’s wildest imaginings. The whole point of the command has been achieved, and then some. If covering the face of the planet with billions of people–many times more than have ever lived–is not “replenishing” it, then the term is meaningless. Second, perhaps surprisingly, some New Testament writers viewed children very differently than as a welcome gift. Look at how Paul felt about marriage in the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians. Not only did he view it as more favorable to be unmarried, but he even told men “that have wives be as though they had none” (1 Cor. 7:29-30). The time was short, and there was no point bringing children into this world that was about to end. The way to avoid that back then, of course, was celibacy.


The third point, the Onan story (Gen. 38:3-10), was all about fulfilling the Old Testament requirement to raise up an heir. Again, that was very important back then, and was a duty that Onan owed to his dead brother. God specifically ordered Onan to undertake the task, and he disobeyed the command. God killed him, as he threatened and killed many others for disobeying his commands.8

There’s nothing special about the life of a speculative not-yet-conceived child here. It’s all about submission. That is, I think, also largely the case in Laestadianism.

Enough Already

Despite what is claimed by Laestadian preachers who know almost nothing about biblical scholarship, the collection of essays we call “the Bible” is not a single book with a unified message. It is futile to dig through “the Bible” looking for what “it” has to say on such a modern subject as the health of women, who were expendable and pretty much treated as property, when different passages provide contradicting answers about such fundamental things as whether God wants everyone to be saved, the value of the Old Testament sacrifices, and salvation by faith or by works.

The contradictions we’ve seen here concerning the value of children are just a small example of the conflict lurking between those mostly unread pages whose gilt edges sparkle under the pulpit lights. The writers of Genesis couldn’t even agree on details of the Flood story (Seven pairs of ritually clean animals, or one? Forty days of flooding, or 150? See §4.3.2), so both conflicting versions are interspersed with each other. None of the Old Testament writers were remotely the same kinds of “believers” as the writers of the Gospels, who themselves disagreed about such a fundamental point of doctrine as whether Jesus was divine (John 14:9-11) or not (Mark 10:17-18) and whether he revealed esoteric meanings of his parables to the disciples in secret (Mark 4:11; Matt. 13:11; Luke 8:10) or always spoke openly, saying nothing in secrecy (John 18:20).
At long last, some Laestadian women are choosing to be the survivors instead, finally claiming their lives, their minds, and their bodies as their own. It’s about time.
Of course, this will not stop the preachers from citing and creatively interpreting their hand-picked passages from “God’s Word,” claiming the authority of God as they do so. They are the Holy men who speak as moved by the Holy Ghost, they claim, ironically citing a passage (2 Peter 1:19-21) from the single most discredited book of the New Testament.9

When any criticism is raised, they point to the Serpent’s question of Eve: “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). There is a sad irony here, too: They are citing a character in a mythic story—long since proven false—to keep you from entertaining the possibility that what they say might be false. And remember that, even in the story, the Serpent was actually the one who told the truth: Adam and Eve did not die upon touching the fruit (Gen. 3:4). Instead, as he said would happen, “the eyes of them both were opened” (3:7).

Laestadian women need to open their eyes as well, before any more of them bleed to death on the sacrificial altar of a faith that requires their fertility for its survival. At long last, some of them are choosing to be the survivors instead, finally claiming their lives, their minds, and their bodies as their own. It’s about time.


1 Haapsaari 2012, 14:30-18:00 — God told Abraham to kill his only son (Ishmael didn’t count). This was a great trial. “And I think, when there are people who dare to say that I don’t believe if I don’t understand–that I only am willing to accept and believe this which I can understand–I think they should read about Abraham. He did not understand. Or what do you think? Do you think that he understood? Do you think he saw plainly what was going to happen? No way. He didn’t. He had to take this leap of faith. He had to kind of shut down his thinking. He could not think. He could not use his carnal reason. Because what God asked of him was inhuman, was–if we say, in a human language–it was wrong. It was something nobody should do.”

2 Haapsaari 2012, 19:00-19:40 — “And now God says, take your son and offer him as burnt offering unto me. What would you have done? [Would you have] run away? [Would you have] said, I can’t? This is inhuman. This is wrong. This is impossible. Whatever else, but not this.”

3 Haapsaari 2012,21:30-23:00 — “So what do you do if you don’t understand? There is only one way to go over it. There’s only one bridge, and that’s faith. If you don’t understand, you believe. Then faith is the most important matter. There is no other way to go over it but through faith. So we see how understanding and believing are kind of opposites to one other. It’s not wrong if we understand something about the matters of faith and doctrine. It’s not wrong if we understand the matters of this life well. If we have good gifts for this temporal life, it’s not sin. It’s not a questionable issue. But we see that no one could by their own human reason go over [overcome] this trial without faith. It’s impossible.”

4 Jurmu 2012, 38:10-39:00 — “One dear sister once said, as she was struggling with her own life, she had a very difficult . . . in fact, a childbirth that was going to cause her to die. Prior to her pregnancy, the doctors had told them, husband and wife together, that if you have another child, the chances are very great that the mother will die. The husband and wife visited over this matter with the doctor and then amongst themselves personally. And they decided, amongst the two of them, that they would trust in God’s goodness.”

5 Jurmu 2012, 39:00-40:10 — “And what is God’s will? As it turned out, this wife became pregnant. And after the birth of that child, it became evident that there was nothing the doctors could do to save this mother’s live. And in the final visit that the husband and wife had together, the husband asked his wife, ‘Are you bitter to God because of our decision?’ The wife said, ‘Not at all.’ She said, ‘I would much rather go to heaven with a clean conscience.’ How simply this husband and wife trusted in the goodness and the protection and the care of the Heavenly Father.”

6 Haapsaari 2012, 36:00-38:00 — “And I guess quite often we have decided, haven’t we, ‘I want to believe. I don’t want to give up, whatever trials God gives unto me, I want to believe, I want to trust God.’ And sometimes we think that this is so simple and clear. Why have I ever doubted? I’ll stop doubting! I’ll never doubt any longer! That’s what we are. We doubt, and God knows our weakness. Dear brothers and sisters, may this text teach us to put a blind trust on God. What does it mean? Let us trust his congregation. Let us trust this congregation more than ourselves. Let us hear what the spirit teaches in the congregation. This congregation is God’s congregation. God takes care of that. God guides it and blesses it. And if I am a member of this congregation–no matter how small and weak, and tried, and fearful, and sinful I am–when this congregation is being raised from this world, I will be raised, too. Although I am a very small and weak member of it, I will be raised too. So, we have a father in heaven, but we have a mother upon this earth. We are the most fortunate people on this earth, that we can believe” (36:00-38:00).

7 Haapsaari 2012, 24:00-25:00 — “[I]n the midst of this trial, God showed him the way. God showed him the place where to go. He may have had so [many] trials, temptations, and doubts that he might have even thought during this trip, [wondering] . . . if God exists, if this is just nonsense, foolishness, the creation of my own mind. Maybe I should turn back, go back home, and try to forget the whole thing. So God showed him, ‘There you are to go.’ It must have been a painful, but also in a way comforting, sight. God is there and he shows me what I am to do.”

8 Leviticus 26 provides a lurid example of God’s threats for disobedience. He will inflict sudden terror, consumption and fever on the disobedient that will waste away their eyes. He will cause their enemies to rule over them. If that doesn’t make the people obey, he will punish them seven times more, rendering the land barren. If that doesn’t work, he will increase the plague seven times again, letting loose the beasts of the field to kill their children and cattle, and reduce their number until their roads lie deserted. If that doesn’t do the trick, he will send pestilence among them. Finally, as a last resort, he will act with “wrathful hostility” against them, whereupon they will eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, he will heap their remains on the remains of their idols and lay waste their cities. At least the idea of eternal torture wasn’t contemplated, here or anywhere else in the Old Testament.

9 “There is less debate among scholars of the New Testament about the authorship of 2 Peter than for any of the other books sometimes considered forgeries. Whoever wrote 2 Peter, it was not Simon Peter” (Ehrman 2011, 68).


Coyne, Jerry. 2011. How big was the human population bottleneck? Another staple of theology refuted. whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/how-big-was-the-human-population-bottleneck-not-anything-close-to-2.

Darwin, Charles. 1871. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: Murray.

Ehrman, Bart. 2011. Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Haapsaari, Jouku. 2012. Sermon preached at Minneapolis Laestadian Lutheran Church, June 17.  archive.laestadianlutheran.org/sermons/Minneapolis_2012/061712_JHaapsaari.mp3.

Ijäs, Johannes. 2012. Vanhoillislestadiolaisten johto kommentoi ehkäisykieltoa. Kotimaa24, Sept. 26. kotimaa24.fi/uutiset/kotimaa/9183-vanhoillislestadiolaisten-johto-kommentoi-ehkaisykieltoa

Joyce, Katheryn. 2009. Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Boston: Beacon Press.

Jurmu, Eric. 2012. Sermon preached at Phoenix Laestadian Lutheran Church, May 13. archive.laestadianlutheran.org/sermons/Phoenix_2012/0513_EJurmu.mp3.

Lohi, Seppo. 2009. Minä uskon Jumalaan, Isään (I Believe in God the Father). Oripää Summer Services: SRK. Reproduced at freepathways.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/seppo-lohen-perustelut/ (accessed Dec. 2011). Translation provided to the author Dec. 2011 by Antti Samuli Kinnunen.

Luther, Martin. 1535 (?) Lectures on Genesis, Vol. 1. George V. Schick, trans., 1958. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Pylväinen, Hanna. 2012. We Sinners. New York: Henry Holt.

Suominen, Edwin A. 2012. An Examination of the Pearl. Self-published, examinationofthepearl.org.


  1. EOP,
    This is an excellent post with a lot of good information. This is an extremely important topic, especially to the LLC and OALC, and FALC the three laestadian groups that strongly promote large families. One of the main things that sets them apart from "the world" is that they are known to have large families. To be fair, the LLC and OALC are more extreme than the FALC on this issue.

    As a woman and a mother who has gone through childbirth, this issue is important to me and I can relate. Pregnancy for me was not an enjoyable experience. I have health issues that makes my pregnancies high risk. I am on medication that can make me bleed heavily during childbirth so I had to be highly monitored when giving birth to both of my kids. Their are certain women in some of these groups that can pop out one kid after the other, without complications. Some of them seem to think that anyone can and should follow their lead, as if all of us are so lucky to give birth with no complications. I know of some who will question other mothers, as to why they are not having more kids, if they go more that two years without having another child. I find that very offensive. How many children someone has should be a decision left up to the mother and father only. Their are so many factors that determine how many kids is right for each family. For example, what happens if you have a special needs child? What if that is so time consuming, that adding more children to the family would be devastating to the welfare of the child that needs extra help and attention? What happens if the husband is working in construction and is unable to find enough work to provide for the family? Do you still keep having more kids and have all the kids being supported by the government? Trust in your church's propaganda? God or believing in laestadianism will solve your problems? Nope, all it takes is popping a pill once a day for three weeks out of the month, or a quick trip to the store. It is YOUR choice how many kids you decide to have. I feel that it is better to have one or two kids, and raise them so that their physical and psychological needs are met, instead of 10 or 12, with many of the kids feeling embarrassed when they have to go to school with all of their clothes from a second hand store. Jealous that all the other kids get to play sports and go to movies. I know, because I am from a large family, and we grew up poor because of it. We were on government assistance because of it. I can relate a lot to what Hanna wrote in her book, about the mother sad to never have anything nice, because the furniture and house was destroyed by all the kids running around. When I had my own family, I said no way is that going to be my kids. I will chose to give my kids a better life.

    I have a relative with 12 kids. She did not stop bleeding after her last birth and it was medically necessary to get her uterus removed. She felt so guilty that she would not be able to have more children and even had to consult with a minister about her decision. The control these churches have on these women is sick and twisted.

    1. Anon, thanks for an informative and thoughtful comment that raises yet another aspect of the issue. It is true that the children already present in a big family can and do suffer from the parents’ lack of time and ability to provide attention when ever more siblings are added. There is certainly genuine love to smooth over the bumps in the road; I’ve seen it radiating from the faces of older children when they hold their new baby sister or brother, in my family as well as others. But there can be resentment sometimes, too, and that is more hidden from view. The kids are not allowed to express it freely, because they, like the parents, are expected to consider each new baby a welcome gift, no matter the circumstances. And yes, when the issue of disability enters the picture, which it does in a frighteningly high proportion of the “caboose” children born to Laestadian mothers in their 40s, the problem is compounded.

      I grew up essentially an only child, with my youngest sibling 10 years older than me. (Long story.) My father was always available to help me with my various projects, standing on the roof helping me string wire from one end to the other for a new ham radio antenna, driving me down to the electronics store for parts, telling me of the confidence he had in me as an individual person. Yes, I missed out on a lot by not having the swarm of siblings around, especially later in life when there are all those cousins and great family get-togethers in Laestadian circles. But the individual attention of my parents was an important part of my upbringing, and it’s a struggle to try to provide that to a lot of kids all so close in age. (For any of mine who chance to be reading this, I’m sorry. Your mom and I had a very difficult job and limited abilities.)

      I don’t want to make light of what is a serious issue, but when you wrote about women who can “pop out one kid after the other, without complications," you reminded me of a memorable phrase that Free came up with in one of our conversations: the Laestadian “pop till you drop” doctrine.

  2. If only every Laestadian woman would read this! There is no stone left unturned; the LLC position on child-bearing is indefensible.
    Thank you, Ed.

  3. Brilliant as always, Ed. Keep up the good work.

    To the first commenter, as a current member of the FALC I would have to agree with your assertion that our church puts much less emphasis on "being fruitful and multiply(ing)." There are still numerous families that self-evidently do not practice birth control, but there are numerous others, mine included, that do ... and I know that while even in my mother's child-birthing days there was a modicum of pressure to procreate, nowadays there simply isn't, at least for us.

    In our case, to have more children would have potentially dangerous mental health consequences for my wife, and the decision is an easy one. Were it a "requirement" as it appears to be for the OALC or LLC, we would most certainly leave, or at least tell the busybodies to p*ss off. As it is, I simply cannot imagine anyone from our church putting any kind of pressure on us to do so, as I think it is more or less viewed as a personal decision even if many might still think birth control is a "sin."

  4. The fact that Jesus is valued primarily as a sacrifice in so many Christian traditions has many disturbing consequences. Primary among them: no human sacrifice is too extreme, too counter-rational, or too bloody to be considered holy.

    Pro-natal competitive breeding strategies are built into many religions, but only by sanctifying the slaughter of innocents can it be taken to such an extreme as described in this article.

    1. Dr. Tarico, good points, and what a nice surprise to have you drop by here! Your book Trusting Doubt (then titled The Dark Side) was one of the first “bad” books I furtively looked at when I decided to do some inquiry after learning about evolution. It was a bracing read, and there is a lot there for us survivors and questioners of Laestadianism to appreciate.

    2. There is indeed. Valerie has been a source of wisdom, humor, and inspiration for me on my journey out of religion and toward a spiritual agnosticism that finds beauty and significance in many traditions --without insisting on any of them. Her site Wisdom Commons is a great place for exploring (and sharing) universal ethics, and her blog Away Point is full of great writing on psychology and belief.

  5. Thank you Ed for yet another great article.
    As a former Laestadian, I have sat through many sermons and though I'm not an expert on the Bible, I have studied it some and it is frustrating to listed to sermon after sermon that is based not on the Bible, but on a ministers personal experiences and emotions. Not only that, but some of the uninformed and completely ludicrous things that they state about the Bible are nauseating. I recently heard a sermon in which the minister took the passage of being "evenly yoked with the world" to mean that we shouldn't be friends with "unbelievers."
    This issue of childbearing is one of the main reasons that I left the church. The church's views on women are designed to keep women down and submissive. What happens when a woman is struggling with suicide and depression and she knows that she cannot handle another child? Is this God's will that children have a shell of a mother who is vacant and sleeps all day because she cannot face her life? Growing up in a family of twelve, I had a mother that was physically, mentally, and emotionally unavailable. My mothers mental issues intensified with each pregnancy and it came to the point that we children raised ourselves and each other while our mother slept all day. My father was gone nearly all the time and mother had no help. Was this God's will? That my mother spend her life as a vacant shell while her young children looked on? It is no wonder that some very tragic things happened to us kids. Mom was too far gone to notice. Please, tell me that God did not wish this life for my mother. I sure as hell know he doesn't want it for me.

  6. Heartfelt thanks to Ed for this comprehensive examination of Laestadian dogma on birth control, which is a first (to my knowledge) and a significant contribution to our understanding.

    May it be read and shared by many.

    May Laestadian men of conscience, who love their wives, realize that there is no Biblical basis for burdening their health and existing children with another pregnancy.

    May Laestadian women take responsibility for their own bodies and fertility and stop deferring to men, either historical, fictional, or marital.

    May the mother about to undergo her 7th c-section, against her physician's advice, realize that God never demanded this sacrifice, and her suffering is not a ticket to eternal rewards.

    May girls considering their futures know that happy women make for happy children, and that every child deserves to be wanted.

    Those of us who spent any time in the OALC know that many couples already parse the rules and use non-medical methods to avoid pregnancy (I've heard some doozies, from total abstinence to feigning illness to "Greek" sex). Some have abortions.

    Education could help more couples choose birth control that is not only effective but leads to happy, healthy mothers and marriages, "just right" size families, and children who feel loved and wanted.

    That's why we should keep talking about this.


  7. I realized after my first two children, who were born fairly close together, that being a mother of a large family was a challenging role that I was probably not cut out for. And yet, as a "good Laestadian", I continued to have children. Taking care of small children is exhausting, and when you are nauseated and vomiting for three or four months at a time, trying to care for those babies is nearly impossible. And if you have to work a job besides? It's unspeakably miserable. At least it was for me. Every time I gave birth, I was so grateful that the cycle was over again, and I only had to deal with the new baby right then. But at the same time, I was already dreading the unpleasantness of the next pregnancy. I can only speak for myself, and I don't presume to say how it is for any other mother...but living through that was like doing my time in hell.

    This is not a way to live. This is not how any woman should have to spend her life. It accomplishes nothing. Nothing. Except bringing more children into the world, who will have to be fed. clothed, and taken care of. And when you don't have the resources to take care of them, it all becomes a burden that consumes your very existence.

    Where is the next garage sale where I will find cute clothes for my kids so other kids won't make fun of them at school and make them cry? Will I find a winter coat for this one at the food/clothing shelf this time when I go, or will I have to squeeze some money out of the limited grocery money to get him a coat that fits him? If I do that, will I have enough to get us through to next payday? Or will we have to go to the parents' house for dinner a couple of times in there?

    I didn't understand how a God who loved us would want his children growing up in a home where there was not enough to go around--not enough money, food, not enough time or love or attention. This is not how kids should be raised. It is not.

    It’s not that I didn't appreciate my children or that I don't like having them. There is not a one of them that I would give back. The issue is not a matter of not loving them; the issue is that parents are not given the opportunity to determine what they can handle. They are all pushed into the same well-oiled mold whether it fits them or not. And that's wrong.

    I think there is a peculiar dichotomy that goes in in Laestadian circles. First you have this view that every baby is a blessed dispensation from God for the parents. Every potential baby is included in that grab bag. Oh, glory! It's a baby! There are some outspoken mothers who make a point of commenting about every new baby or baby-to-be, like what a blessing they are! How blessed! How wonderful! Sometimes I wonder what their response would be if I had gotten the guts to say, "Well, I don't think it's wonderful at all. I can't take care of the ones I have right now. Where am I going to put this one? In a dresser drawer?"

    I feel robbed of the joy of having children that you plan for and hope for and try for. I don't know how to express it without sounding like I didn't want my kids. There is something about choosing to having children that is different from being expected to have children. You appreciate the one, and you can resent the other. Some people can find a way to appreciate it anyway, and I commend them. I understand that I chose my actions, and that no one held a gun to my head. But I was trying to do what I thought was the right thing, even though it went against what I felt was true and right for me.

    When I see people having children who plan for and who are excited for them now, I get to experience that delight through them, and it is bittersweet. I cannot go back for a do-over. I can only encourage my children to wait until they are sure. Wait until they are prepared. I don't sugarcoat how much work it is to raise children. I tell them what I wish someone had told me: honey, you have a choice...take your time, and make it wisely.

    1. These are my thoughts exactly. I love my children, but I felt totally obligated to have them one after the other, with no time to even grasp what I was doing. It's so hard to think straight when you have child after child. I will definitely teach my children they do have rights to their bodies, they need to use their brains, plan financially, consider their situations, and truly want the children they have.

    2. Well said. I am from a large LLC family and have always known it wasn't for me.

  8. Laestadians teach that God gives children as a blessing. Birth control is forbidden because it could prevent a life from coming into being, and by averting that possibility, the parents are defying God's will for them and taking life from the child. This perspective seems to take precedence over everything else, including the well-being of those children as they get older. Because when there are a large number of children in a family, parental oversight becomes less and less, and pretty soon, you have children watching over the children. Fighting goes on, abuse can happen, kids can be injured or bullied, and an overwhelmed parent screams, dispenses slaps, and pulls hair as a quick fix for a squabble instead of taking the time to talk through the issues and teach the children appropriate behavior, compassion and understanding. Where is the blessing now?

    And how does a child in that situation develop a healthy self-esteem and healthy self image? How does a child learn that they have the right to say No when it comes to issues relating to their body, when the parents don't have the right to make those choices themselves? Some families do better than others at this, and I am not painting the whole bunch with the same brush. But I have seen these families many times, and I just cringe when "Dad discipline" comes into play and he starts handing it out to everyone in reach. Blessing, my eye.

    Do I sound a little cynical? Yes, I am.

    In reference to the above anonymous poster whose mother was not able to adequately care for her children, I am sorry you had to go through that. At times, I was afraid I was going to be a mother like that. I was overwhelmed, too. I believed I had no control over my situation, either, so I used to wish that someone would pick me up when I was out walking, kill me, and roll me out on the side of the road somewhere. I didn’t know how to handle the life I had. I don't say that to make anyone feel sorry for me. I never told anyone that. It was just a reflection of how desperate I felt, how helpless the whole situation made me feel. There didn't seem to be an answer.

    I did look for books at the library, though. These were written, I think, for women trying to conceive. These books described how to determine when a woman's most fertile time of the monthly cycle occurred. I never checked them out…I just read them at the library, right in the aisle, while the kids were looking for books. Although I didn't go through all the temperature-taking, etc, that the books recommended because that would be too obvious, I was able to figure out when NOT to have sex to avoid getting pregnant. I never told my husband that I did this. I just did it. Desperate measures for desperate times. I didn't avoid getting pregnant completely, because I was afraid of people noticing. But I was able to spread out the births of my subsequent children a little farther. But still. Why? Why should this be considered a good thing?

  9. I wish I had thought this clearly about this issue when I was still having kids. We would have been using condoms and I wouldn't have thought twice about doing it, either. I can relate to the overwhelmed feelings you get when you're the parent of a lot of young children, for sure. That is a lot of responsibility to put onto young adults who in many cases are not ready for it. Thanks, Ed, for posting this.

  10. Child abuse happens anywhere, but it is more common in authoritarian relationships where adults have all the power and children are undersupervised. On July 19th, a man -- a father -- from the OALC in Battle Ground was arrested for first degree rape of a child. How many signs were ignored? How many children are being hurt elsewhere? Why has this escaped the newspapers?
    --Angry As HELL

  11. It's hard to say why this crime escaped the papers. Do Laestadians make a large percentage of readership and advertising revenue? If so, that could be why.

    It is easy to see why mothers completely collapse under the strain of having large families. This is the second Laestadian mother I have heard wish they would be picked up and killed and left on the side of the road.

    I only have two children, two young adult sons. My younger son had a lot of learning disabilities. Though it was my wish to have a large family, like the others, it was never fulfilled due to my family's financial need I needed to work. We lived in a 600 square foot apartment for many years until we were able to save for our own home. I was able through my great medical insurance to get my learning disabled child the best help possible and to give him love and attention, and who knows how much of that care averted some of the tragedies that often befall children with learning disabilities. The prisons are full of people who cannot read and write, and my son's learning disabled friend recently killed himself. I had the time and energy left over for him that I could let him know how much he was loved and valued to me. That was important for me to convey, since I never felt my own mother was ever proud of me or valued our relationship. What was easily given, as she had many children and was blessed with easy pregnancies, I did not feel she valued. I have always felt like a little lost girl craving a mother's love and attention. When I left home, my roommates were a litle perplexed why my mother never called, sent packages, etc. I never felt like she ever missed me. I miss my sons tremendously now that they are away from home. Once I had not seen her for months after I moved away, and when I went to big services and I saw her sitting around a table drinking coffee with her female relatives, I tapped her on the shoulder, a big smile on my face, happy to see my mom. She barely glanced at me, and then shoved her styrofoam cup and me and mumbled 'get me a cup of coffee' and then turned away, not even meeting my eyes or giving me God's Greetings. My roommate behind me, who had never met my mother, and who I never spoke ill about, was a bit shocked. I had not taken this as anything out of the ordinary until I learned that not all church families operated in this way. My roommates mother became a cherished friend to me, and always has looked happy to see me and that she saw me as a valued person. If I miss anything about the church, it was about people like that. There were a few older women who treated me like this and it was a real blessing and a model I used when I had my own children. I never had a daughter, and I feel that was a blessing, too, since I was afraid of getting it wrong.

  12. Anonymous said, 'This issue of childbearing is one of the main reasons that I left the church. The church's views on women are designed to keep women down and submissive. What happens when a woman is struggling with suicide and depression and she knows that she cannot handle another child?' I have made the point previously that one of the 'glues' that holds Laestadianism together is KEEPING THE WOMEN UNEDUCATED. I recall one overwhelmed Laestadian woman say to me, "I wish I was one of those who have already died." When I grew up in my Laestadian group I clearly remember being told that any sexual urges or desires were essentially the devil inflaming a person's lusts whereas in reality sexual urges in both men & women are a normal part of our physiology with men peaking out at around age 20 and women at around age 42. Hence part of the Laestadian's big push for early marriages is to ABSOLVE people (especially males)of the sin of sexual desire by pushing early marriages since a marriage license essentially gives a person an absolution with regards to sex-at least that is what I understood the preachers meant. However, the Laestadian Pharisees and Pharisettes do not stop there as they essentially follow a couple into the bedroom with a long list of 'rules of practice' and the results are constant pregnancies which in turn forces many couples to come up with yet another set of subtle rules, methods and contra-exceptions to circumvent the Pharisee's rules and nature's course-but which do not always work. Hence there are more than a few mothers & fathers who are unable or unwilling to provide the love and personalized attention children need. I guess the whole subject seemed normal when I was part of it all but now it all seems absurd to me. However, for those who remain as members I would guess that there will always be an undertow current with this subject. This was but one of the many reasons I stopped attending. I was glad when I later found a Bible Church whose 'glue' was faith in Christ versus man-made Laestadian Pharisee 'glue.' Old AP

    1. Anonymous' link from a Finnish Laestadian publication said, "Women and men should know that there does not exist any ban of birth control in the Bible. This Laestadian doctrine of large families and of sin of contraceptives are created only by human beings, by the Laestadian preachers who know almost nothing about biblical scholarship. Sex and sexuality have been the exclusive domain of Laestadian husbands and preachers in the patriarchate gender system. Laestadian women are never asked to express their opinions and experiences on this issues." I guess my views are shared by some one over in Finland-part of that Laestadian telepathy I think. Unfortunately, this subject is approached with whispers in Laestadian domains with very little knowledge of human anatomy, physiology and psychology. Many in Laestadianism try to solve or answer complex questions with canned Biblical verses taken out of context. I am sure that when airplanes were invented there was more than a few Laestadians chirping away, "if men were meant to fly they would have wings." I think the whole family planning issue is held onto by the Pharisees as it is one of the few remaining ways that they can 'control' people other than thru vicious gossip & a couple of other control mechanisms that they have. After all, they can not conceptualize true faith in Christ as being the 'norm' for each person as that would demolish their legalistic rules and hence their legitimacy as some type of religious authority. It is the same story in most Laestadian groups. Old AP

  13. LLLreader sez: In the 1940's Preacher Axel Uskoski spoke at the OALC in Brush Prairie saying that children should be born at least two years apart in order to prtect the health of the mother. Has this teaching gone by the wayside? He was a well respected preacher, as was his father before him.

  14. That's interesting, LLLreader. I had not heard of that advice before.

    Substitute "the Church" for "Government" in this quote from 20 years ago by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg:

    "The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When Government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices."


  15. Here's another interesting link about the topic, this time from a man's point of view.

  16. Dear Daisy, thank you for linking our blog (Freepathways) with this very important article. I do agree with grateful words already written visible here to you, Ed, for your excellent well written, and exactly detailed research on the Laestadian ban of birth control in itse entirety. Actually, if possible, I would wish to get it translated in Finnish. we don't have anything as well written report on the issue compared with this marvellous article. However, I am afraid that the translation would need extra resources. Right now there is not easy to find out such ones. The Laestadian women (and men also) in Finland would absolutely benefit a lot on the information in this article. They would be worth of this information. Yhis would be worth of thinking how to get it done.

    Our warmest thanks, Ed, for your beautiful and fine work for knowlege, better understanding, and awareness. For the Human Rights.
    - BR, Markus

  17. As someone who grew up in a very tight-knit community of an LLC congregation, I have seen first hand how so many families suffer because of this man-made "rule" within Laestadianism about banning birth control of any kind. Yes, I firmly believe that children are a miracle, a gift from God, so to speak but that does not mean that we should abuse and neglect our bodies as women and mother's to have as many children as God sees fit! There are so many instances where smart, well educated mothers have gone against what their doctor has told them in regards to having more children and how it isn't safe or recommended to do so. There are a few believing ladies in my home congregation who have had to have their tubes tied on the advice of their doctor for fear of their life (if they were to get pregnant again). I am so thankful they listened to their doctors and chose to save their lives - even though the church would later make them feel as though this was a wrong decision which they would need forgiveness for. I also have seen many, many mothers (close friends of mine), have bascially a child every year and everytime they get pregnant they are so disappointed and wishing they could've been "given a bigger break this time". The fact that there are so many different personalities and situations (whether it be financial, living conditions, marital strife, etc.), how can this overall decision be blanketed to everyone within the LLC? It should be up to each couple on their own to decide whether or not they will have a large family, how much spacing is between each child and how many children they wish to have...not up to a group of preachers who have decided that this would be in the best "teachings" for the LLC. No woman got to give their opinion on that, it was a group of men. Does that make any sense? And nowhere in the Bible, does it say anything about banning the use of contraception. Yes, it does say "go forth be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth" (which we have all heard countless times I'm sure) but this O.T. scripture was when the world was at a population base of more around the 10,000's then the billions! I think the world is replenished. You can stop trying to fulfill this prophecy now people! Not trying to make light of a very serious situation, believe me! I think now its coming down to the fact that if Laestadians do not continue to have such large families, the population won't be as great within itself and this could cause problems in the future if people start to leave. The more people within a group, the more likely they are to stay. Another point I need to make is not that large families are bad and no one should have a large family! There are many, many people that are wonderful parents, spouses, siblings - within large families - it is those who can not handle the stress and burden of having so many children - either emotionally, mentally or financially - or all of the above - that should be able to be given the freedom to choose for themselves. I can definitely say that as a mother of 2 young children (3+ years between them), it is no easy feat being a mom. And I give credit to anyone who can do this year after year, bringing a new baby into the family and somehow making it work. My heart breaks for the many mothers within the LLC that feel they have no choice but to continue to have children, even if they feel that they are not ready to be a mom or would like some time to get to know their husband a little better before adding kids to the mix or are simply overwhelmed with motherhood with the kid(s) they already do have. Whatever the reason, they feel they have no choice and are jumping up and down with joy each month when they know they aren't pregnant again...yet. Sad.

  18. Thank you for this thoughtful comment, Anonymous. "You can stop trying to fulfill this prophecy now people!" would make a good bumper sticker.

    Another toxic result of this thinking is the martyr complex it encourages . . . the long-suffering woman who is consciously or not, competing with others to suffer the most, as it it makes her holier. I have heard mothers complain about their "blessings" in front of them.

    No child should feel like he/she is a burden that must be borne.

    Every child should feel wanted and adored and nurtured, not just as babies but for the rest of their lives.



  19. Odds of a strand of DNA arranging itself in the right order to create life? 1 in 10^400,000. About the same as YOU winning the lottery EVERY DAY for 15 Billion consecutive years. Good luck

  20. I just posted an English translation of a review of the popular Finnish novel Heaven’s Song: blog.edsuom.com/2014/01/heavens-song.html. It’s about the difficulties involved with the being fruitful and multiplying part of Laestadian life and has been in high demand in Finland.