Should I Circumcise My Baby?

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“Will he be circumcised?” the nurse asked.

One question a parent of newborn boy needs to answer is “Should I circumcise my baby?” What, if anything, does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have to say on the issue? Is there a stance on Latter-day Saint circumcision?

Why is Circumcision Religious?

The reason circumcision has a religious nature is because God told Abraham to be circumcised.

“This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.” –Genesis 17:10

Circumcision has then been kept as a religious ritual among the Jewish people ever since.

The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that the Abrahamic Covenant was applicable to Latter-day Saints—though the only portion of the covenant specifically mentioned is the promise of eternal increase.

Do Christians Circumcise?

Some Christians are almost certainly circumcised. While there isn’t good data on a religious basis, there are simply too many circumcisions performed in the United States for none of them to be performed on Christians.

The more interesting question is whether or not they have a religious reason to circumcise. This was a major controversy in the New Testament.

Peter, then acting as president of the Church, taught that non-Jewish members of the Church did not need to be circumcised to be accepted into the Church.

Paul taught this message clearly in his own ministry. And the topic of circumcision comes up often in his epistles, where he often sounds contemptuous of the practice.

But the New Testament is not conclusive on whether or not Jewish members of the Church should continue to circumcise their children. And there is some evidence that they wished to do so.

Since Latter-day Saints are of the House of Israel, some may wonder if that means there is a religious reason for them to continue to circumcise.

Any Modern Revelation on Circumcision?

Fortunately, as with so many other confusions, the answer is contained in modern revelation.

The Lord told Mormon that “the law of circumcision is done away.”

On another occasion, Joseph Smith asked for clarification on a vague verse in 1 Corinthians. The Lord answered that the verse referred to the controversy over circumcision, and explained clearly that children might remain without circumcision, and that the tradition of circumcision should be done away with.

A Joseph Smith translation of the original Abrahamic covenant makes clear that circumcision was a symbol preparatory for baptism.

These examples of modern revelation make it clear that there is absolutely no religious reason for Latter-day Saints to be circumcised.

Is There Current Counsel on Circumcision?

This, of course, still leaves open the question, “Just because Latter-day Saints don’t have to be circumcised, does that mean they shouldn’t be circumcised?”

There are two schools of thought on this question.

One idea is that the circumcision represents a reliance on the law of Moses and thus a rejection of Christ’s sacrifice. For that reason, Latter-day Saints would not want to be circumcised.

Others suggest that as long as circumcision is not decided on for religious reasons, there is no religious statement being made. This school of thought relies on the idea that circumcision has health benefits.

There is a substantial scientific debate on whether or not circumcision does provide health benefits, with reputable studies, and professionals falling on both sides of the question.

Have modern prophets and apostles provided any additional information? No. In the last thirty-five years, the topic has only come up three times in general conference, and each time only within the context of their scriptural accounts.

So should Latter-day Saints circumcise their newborn sons? It’s your call. Hopefully, the above information helps you frame the question in a way that will allow you to make your decision.

Christopher D. Cunningham is the managing editor for Public Square Magazine and contributor to Third Hour. He loves emphatically celebrating the normal healthy development of his sons Albus and Whitman, writing about the Church of Jesus Christ, finding the middle ground on most controversies, and using Western Family generic brand lip balm. Christopher is a proud graduate of Brigham Young University-Idaho, and a resident of San Antonio, Texas.