This is not a post about whether birth control should be permitted, or about stem-cell research, test-tube babies or even about the ethics of in-vitro fertilization. Rather, this post is about what these technologies do to and for Mormon doctrines about sex and reproduction.
One of the results of modern reproductive technology is to completely separate sex and reproduction. They are no longer necessarily related. This must leave an impact on the way that we theologize about both. Sex without reproduction and reproduction without heterosexual intercourse have become realities. The thing that we must reconsider is the close connection between them that Mormon theological reflection has often taken for granted.
The first major institution that we must reconsider is nothing less than the heterosexual reproductive marriage. This institution is the foundation of LDS afterlife theology and is seen as the primal unit of creation. Often, the post-mortem continuation of reproductive sexual relations has been a celebrated tenent of Mormonism. However, reproductive technologies seriously challenge the assumptions of “natural” reproduction. Can we imagine a kind of reproduction in our future lives that is in fact not connected to sexual intercourse? If this kind of “technology” exists in this world, then why not the next? How do we rethink reproductive gender roles, eternal child birth, and heterosexual partnerships once technology (and possibly the nature of resurrected bodies) displaces a necessary father/mother binary?
The second case for reevaluation is the relationship between sex and marriage. In our larger cultural envirnoment, the connection between sex and marriage has virtually disappeared precisely because the sex/reproduction nexus has been dissolved. Does an LDS theology of sex adequately account for sex without reproduction? On what basis is sex prohibited if the production of children outside of wedlock is no longer an issue? Given that the history of heterosexual marriage is deeply intertwined with the regulation of reproductive sex, how does the institution of marriage change when its very logic has been rearranged?
The technologies also offer potential benefits for LDS theology. Through them, we can think about reproduction in our next life without having to biologize the production of spirit children. Additionally, sex without reproduction becomes a powerful symbol of union between husband and wife. However, for the most part I don’t think that these new technologies have been adequately addressed theologically.