Thursday, February 10, 2011

Parenting "Decision" #32: Circumcision; From one Latter-Day Saint's Perspective

I wrote parts of this when we found out the gender of our second child.

"We found out that we were having a boy a week ago during an ultrasound. Carson and I were so excited. Of course we were excited when we found out that we had another little one coming our way. Seeing him move made it that much more special. Knowing whether the layette was going to be pink or blue was special as well.

And at that point I started researching circumcision. The obvious next step was to find out how it was done. When I found that out, I wanted to know what the foreskin was and why it had to be removed. I know why the Jews had it removed. God told them to. As that law has been fulfilled with Christ, I needed to know why it was still being done."

Over the course of the past year and a half I have done a great deal of research on the subject as new arguments defending a parent's right to physically alter their child's genitals came up more and more. It has been one of those situations where I give an explanation, and they come up with another reason. The hardest questions to answer were from folks who share the same faith as I do. I have addressed other sides of it in two other blog entries and am focusing this one on my Latter-Day Saint, ie Mormon perspective.

My resources are, and Jewish Historical Research. Where applicable I will add hyperlinks to the website.

Line of thinking is as follows.

- Heavenly Father has a body of flesh and bone. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130 Verse 22.

- Adam was made in Heavenly Father's image, and Heavenly Father said that it was Good.

Moses Chapter 2 Verse 27 and 31.

- Heavenly Father commanded circumcision as a token of the Abrahamic covenant. Link Here. "Circumcision as a token of the covenant was done away with by Christ’s mission (Moro. 8:8; D&C 74:3–7)."

Now here is where I start to get some good objections when I say that if Heavenly Father doesn't command it, then we shouldn't do it. I say this because we are created by Him, in His image.

A) "We cut our hair."

B) "It could be one of those commandments that is still good to keep."

C) "It is a parent's choice."

D) "The Church doesn't have a policy on it."

E) "Christ was circumcised, so it must still be ok."

A) "We cut our hair." Or the Hygiene Argument as I like to call it.

As Latter-Day Saints our grooming is part of what sets us apart. L. Tom Perry stated in his talk "Let Him Do It With Simplicity," "Our dress and grooming send a message to others about who we are, and they also affect the way we act around others."

M. Russell Ballard even cited grooming when talking about modesty and teaching our daughters the Gospel by example, in his talk "Mothers and Daughters".

"They need to hear this—clearly and repeatedly—from your lips, and they need to see it modeled correctly and consistently in your own personal standards of dress, grooming, and modest living."

Under "Body, Sanctity of," there is a listing for references to this thought, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God,"

We are expected to treat out bodies with respect and keep them clean and well groomed. We are counciled against piercings and tattoos but are counciled about raising our children to - "Teach them to respect their bodies." - President Hinckley

President Hinckley Quoted the church position in his talk, "Your Greatest Challenge Mother",

"We—the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve—have taken the position, and I quote, that “the Church discourages tattoos. It also discourages the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes, although it takes no position on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings.”

Now we know that we are made in God's image, grooming is important, and that our bodies are His temple.

Foreskin's don't grow back. They have nerve endings, blood supply, and a functional purpose. They do not need to be trimmed back monthly like a hair cut. Once it is cut, the tissue that is taken is gone for good.

We (as a society) are altering our son's bodies in a way Prophet's didn't consider before Heavenly Father commanded them to do so.

B) "It could be one of those commandments that is still good to keep." - The Ten Commandments Argument.

Now, this is an idea that isn't as straight forward as you might think.

There are two groups we are going to look at. The Jews that the Apostle Paul dealt with and the Nephites on the American continent.

The Bible Dictionary has an entry on circumcision here. As Latter-Day Saints we know that the Bible is true so long as it is translated correctly. So, looking at Paul's ministry can cause some, well, trickiness. Largely it is accepted that Paul preached against the practice of Circumcision as part of the Law of Moses.

In an Ensign article it talks about the Ministry of the early church. Here. Called, "A Crisis, A Council, and Inspired Leadership."

"But note this important fact: even though they were of Gentile lineage, they had all previously converted to Judaism, which means they were circumcised, ate only foods sanctioned by the law of Moses, offered sacrifice, and honored the Sabbath day in proper Jewish style. Religiously, they were Jews, and thus the Church membership remained exclusively of Jewish background."

The Bible Dictionary makes a very clear contrast with the Nephites on the American Continent,

"The Jewish part of the church membership, especially in Jerusalem, appears to have been very reluctant to cease from the rituals and ceremony of the law of Moses (Acts 21:17–25). This is a marked contrast to the Church among the Nephites, in which there seems to have been a cessation of the law immediately upon their awareness of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (3 Ne. 15:1–4; Moro. 8:8). See also Abraham, covenant of; Law of Moses; Proselytes." (emphasis added)

Paul is clear about Circumcision in relation to salvation, in First Corinthians Chapter 7 Verse 19 he says, "aCircumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God."

He repeats the idea in Galatians Chapter 5 Verse 6, "For in Jesus Christ neither acircumcision bavaileth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but cfaith which worketh by dlove.

C) "It is a parent's choice."

Of course it is a parent's choice. We make a lot of decisions for our children. We choose what to feed them, how to teach them, how to treat them. All in hopes of bringing up good citizens and disciples of Jesus Christ.

This is where opinion comes into play. Rather this question; As parent's given children to raise by Heavenly Father, to what degree do we have jurisdiction over the bodies they inhabit?

Apart form it being illegal in the United States, if you had the choice, would you circumcise your daughter?

If you took your son into the hospital and asked them to remove your son's earlobes because they didn't match your husband's would they do it?

Would you knowingly put your son into the hands of someone who would purposefully give your son an unwanted erection?

(The last one is something that the do in the coarse of a hospital based circumcision. )

Is it a parent's choice to beat, starve, molest, abuse, sell, generally mistreat their children?

Yes. But they will suffer the consequences from our society as these things are unacceptable to our society.

Just because you can do it, doesn't mean that you should.

D) "The Church doesn't have a policy on it."

The Church also doesn't have a policy on caffeine, Female Genital Mutilation, or what jobs are the most fitting to Latter-Day Saints.

Prophet Joseph Smith: “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” (Messages of the First Presidency, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 3:54.) We should not, according to the scriptures, need to be commanded in all things. (See D&C 58:26.)

- Elder Boyd K. Packer : Teach Them Correct Principles

In First Corinthians Chapter 6 Verse 19-20 it states

"19What? know ye not that your abody is the btemple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your cown?

20For ye are abought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s."

This actually builds on parental choice. If the parent's body is not their own, then how can they own their child's?

We are given permission and commandments to do certain things with our children, raise them up to the Lord, care for them, house them, feed them, love them.

But unless Heavenly Father commands bodily alteration in a healthy human being, why are we doing it? Beyond that why are we doing it before the child can make a decision about his body for himself?

E) "Christ was circumcised, so it must still be ok." - The "It was good enough once" argument.

We don't do a lot of things that were done to Christ. Generally a poor arguement.

Add to that the type of circumcision that is done today was NOT done to Christ, but is actually fashioned after a more extreme form of circumcision brought about after Christ's death.

Now this is a long excerpt, but I found it important to put this here, rather than just set a link to it.

How an Abrahamic circumcision was performed, God's circumcision vs man's version.

"The following excerpts are from the book The Joy of Uncircumcising (copyright 2002, presented for educational purposes only, edited for length) by Dr. Jim Bigelow. I have no doubt that the writer is biased as can be discerned from the title of his book. But, is his information, as presented below, correct?


Milah is the first step, after prayers, of ritual circumcision. It consists of cutting off the protruding tip of the typical infant foreskin (4). Historically, this was to be done with a flint knife, certainly from the time of Joshua (5).

The History of Milah. The Scriptures state simply that God told Abraham to circumcise himself and all of his offspring and slaves who were eight days of age or older. And, “in the selfsame day,” Abraham did it (Gen. 17:23 KJV). The act which Abraham performed was, in fact, milah—the symbolic removal of the tip of the foreskin. This relatively simple form of circumcision was practiced by the Jews for approximately 2,000 years, throughout the whole of the Old (and, for that matter, the New) Testament era. No other feature was added to the rite until sometime around 140 A.D. (6).

The Results of Symbolic Circumcision. The physiological results of this form of circumcision are significant to our understanding of the history of foreskin restoration. As noted earlier, the foreskin and the glans are typically fused together at birth and are actually a single organ at that stage of development. Therefore, when the ancient circumciser cut off only the protruding tip of the typical infant foreskin with a single cut, a great deal of the natural foreskin would have been left intact. Such a penis would have continued to go through its natural developmental stages. That is, the remaining foreskin would have separated from the glans naturally over time. This process would have left the glans with many of its natural features— texture, sensitivity, etc. Such a penis would also have had a rather ample remnant of foreskin. And, since the frenulum would not have been directly or intentionally destroyed, the foreskin remnant would most likely have stayed in place and continued to cover a substantial portion of the glans, particularly when the penis was flaccid. It is, indeed, this very fact which allowed ‘renegade’ Jews for approximately 2,000 years to effect a rather simple and convincing foreskin restoration, or re-covering of the glans.


Periah is the second step or procedure in ritual circumcision. After cutting off the end of the infant foreskin, periah consists of tearing and stripping back the remaining inner lining of the foreskin off the glans and then, by the use of a sharpened fingernail, removing all such mucous tissue including the excising of the frenulum.

The History of Periah. Jewish historians differ as to exactly when this second step was introduced into ritual circumcision. Few historians, however, disagree as to why it was introduced: circumcision without it was simply too easily disguised!

We will discuss the various situations in which Jews sought to appear uncircumcised and the ancient social and economic benefits of being uncircumcised when we discuss the history of foreskin restoration in Chapter 7. It is enough to say here that the rabbis sought to put an end once and for all to Jews passing themselves off as uncircumcised males by elongating the remaining remnant of their foreskin. The rabbis’ solution was to so entirely obliterate the foreskin that any Jew so circumcised would not be able to disguise “the seal of the covenant.”

Dr. Kohler, in the JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA (1964), states that “the Rabbis, probably after the war of Bar Kokba, instituted the ‘periah’ (the laying bare of the glans), without which circumcision was declared to be of no value.” If his conclusion is correct, periah would have become universal in about 140 A.D. (8).

It is interesting to note, from an historical point of view, that by these calculations all biblical Jews—both Old and New Testament—would have been circumcised in the less radical, symbolic style of milah. This being the case, no biblical reference to circumcision ever refers to or indicates the more radical style of circumcision which is now practiced by modern-day Jews or by the American medical profession.

The Results of Radical Circumcision. We can be sure that the results of the new form of circumcision were relatively uniform. It was declared that if the remaining shaft skin was excessive (any fold of skin against the corona) or if there were any ‘shreds’ of the mucous tissue left, the child was to be recircumcised. The rabbis were taking no chances! (9).

Further, the loss of all mucous tissue results in severe receptor nerve loss which, in turn, results in a significant loss of sensual sensations. This overall dulling of sensation has led some Jewish historians to speculate that circumcision was intended to curb the sexual appetite (10). Such intentions may well have been in the minds of the later Jewish rabbis who instituted periah; however, such an explanation would not hold true for the earlier, simpler style of circumcision which Jews practiced for the first 2,000 years of the covenant."

Our bodies are made in Heavenly Father's image. Circumcision is not a commandment. Who are we to alter the state of healthy baby boys we have been blessed with?

Rather, who are we to say that His design is deficient, and we need to correct it?

Do you follow the Tradition of your Fathers, or do you allow your child to look and function like hid Heavenly Father?

1 comment: