We have about half the number of children as did my grandparents, yet our family seems large by modern standards. During the early years of our marriage we found ourselves unable to have children naturally. Yet both of us felt the Spirit strongly confirm that we were to have a number of children. Pursuing various means to bring that to pass took a lot of faith after I was diagnosed with a serious condition. How would we meet our family's needs if I were debilitated?
The way forward was seldom clear as we tried to follow the Spirit's whisperings on this matter. This included lots of prayer, fasting, and both medical and natural approaches. Children eventually came. All but one conception required health interventions.
Even as my wife was in labor with the second to last child, she knew that there was one more. After all this time we were no longer young people. Conventional wisdom would have had us stop. But as our last child was born a few years later we felt the confirming witness of the Spirit that our family was finally complete.
The subsequent years have brought joys and sorrows. Challenges have included children with mental health challenges that continue to stretch our limits. Yet we love each one and we know that God loves each child infinitely more than we do. We live with the calm assurance that our family configuration is God's plan for us and our children.
Good parenting can be difficult. But God didn't send us here for a life of comfort. Our Heavenly Parents want to train us to spend eternity doing what they do. They are not on some kind of celestial retirement cruise. They are actively parenting, working to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of their children.
I see where the concerned readers are coming from when reading this article however I did not get this feeling. I felt the author was going after the trending thoughts of individuals who are afraid of having children due to financial constraints and being able to care for their children and hold down jobs. Decisions of our governing leaders are definitely geared towards encouraging small families or no children at, all the while wanting a larger work force. Inflation rates, low wages, more taxes all the while encouraging spending and not saving will get the job done. I do believe the choice of having children and how many is a very private matter between husband and wife and Heavenly Father. Husbands should really consider the feelings and concerns of the wife. Many couples are not and it weighs very heavy on the heart of those who really want to bear children but cannot. My wife and I have lived these experiences. My wife was from a family of 3 siblings and was a convert to the church after high school. My parents are converts to the church and there were 4 of us kids. Both my wife and i experienced our parents divorcing. I married my wife when she had 1 child so I married into an instant family. We had 2 children together and almost lost that child. We were told that we cannot have any more children. This weighed very heavy on my wife as then she felt like a failure. 7 yrs later a miracle happened and we ended up adopting 4 children, a sibling group. Though we were not looking for this many children we knew this was what we were supposed to do. Going from 3 to 7 children in 2 weeks was tough and we did it on a single income and we did this up until 2 yrs ago. We now have 2 children at home as the other children have grown up. My wife and I are very happy how our lives turned out though not what we had planned.
My council to my children has always been: Discuss with your husband, what you see your life mission is. remember, first and foremost your primary calling in life is and discuss what his is. Work and jobs fall outside these guidelines. My one daughter knows that she may have to work unless her husband becomes quite successful and is able to earn enough to meet their needs. Other than that, her focus is to be a stay at home mom and if she works, she wants to have her own business so she can accomplish this. She grew up watching her mother do this and she learned how we made things work so we still had family outings and trips though we did not have the big house or the new vehicles.
I will tell you that we were blessed as we followed the Lord. We had some tough times but we recognize how the Lord blessed our lives. We learned budgeting techniques and we learned tax laws. I am not saying that my wife and I was blessed because we had a large family. What I am saying that is that each couple who involves the Lord in their decisions and then continues to follow the Lord will be blessed. We cannot fear financial, government nor social trends when following him. He knows what is going on and he is very aware of couples who sacrifice to follow him, regardless if it was 0, 1, 2 or 3 children. If the desires are there and couples strive to follow him, they will be blessed.
I liked Cliff's comment. Just to add a little twist to his mathematics, may I share my mother's interpretation of the scriptural reference. She quoted the commandment as "...be fruitful, multiply and replenish the Earth." With this in mind she explained to "be fruitful" a couple should have two children to replace themselves. To "multiply" a couple should have two more children (two times two is four children). Now, according to her interpretation of the commandment to "replenish the Earth," a couple should have at least one more making five children needed as a minimum. Mom is long gone now and you might question her simple mathematics since she was born in the "old country" where she only attended the third grade, but she and Dad reared five sons on a single unpredictable, weather dependent, carpenter's income and odd jobs Mom could get until we boys were old enough to get odd jobs also. It wasn't easy for us, but we learned a lot from the challenges we met. In spite of the simple challenging lives we were forced to live, we all graduated with university degrees and have done a pretty good job of replenishing the Earth.
I think the focus of the article is on being faithful to God's commands as you are inspired to do. There is not standard number of children- large or small. Circumstances differ. What matters is your willingness to be faithful and your ability to follow God and not be influenced by the standards of the world. I don't think the authors are "showing off" their number of children. I do think that when possible, large families are a blessing to all.
No where in this article did the authors equate large families with righteousness. They were clear that the number of children a couple should have is left up to the couple and the Lord.
One of the most powerful instructions my wife and I received was at the Saturday night session of Stake Conference. The Stake President had a chalk board and drew an arc representing the downward trend of the world. He then drew another arc slight above the first arc and indicated that this is the trend of the church. We are going in the same direction as the world we are just lagging behind.
The brethren are clearly concerned about the trends in the church. Elder Packer gave a great talk at BYU women's conference in 2006 called the Children of God. Here is a quote:
"Now the birthrate is declining in every country in the world. In order for a nation’s population to remain stable, the birthrate must be just over two children per woman of childbearing years. In more than thirty countries in Europe, the birthrate is below the replacement rate. In several, it is hovering barely above half that replacement rate. The
population of some countries is declining at an alarming rate.
The United States is barely above the replacement rate. Only because of immigration and the higher birthrate among the Hispanic people do we maintain our population...Virtually every social security and medical system in the developed world is facing bankruptcy. An aging population can neither work to sustain the people nor
fight to protect them...That trend is seen in the Church. Worldwide, the birthrate among members married in the temple is notably higher than in the world, but this rate too has been declining...Like the rest of the population, members of the Church must suffer the consequences of these trends. We face a particular set of issues because the pool
from which missionaries are drawn is in steady decline."
Ever since this talk I have been following demographic trends. The number of births in the church peaked in 2008 when we had 13.5 million members and 123000 births. That number has been declining ever since. For 2017 there were 16.1 million members buy only 106,000 children born.
The commandment to multiple and replenish the earth is actually a commandment to fill the earth. Look at the foot notes for the word "replenish".
Based on my reading of the scriptures, the greatest commandment is to love God. The second greatest commandment is to love thy neighbor as thyself. God has never given us as a collective a specific number of children to have. He only does this on an individual basis. Having a large family is not the only way to follow these commandments. Those who have large families are not better than those with small families. In your attempts to justify the number of children you have chosen to have, do not demean those who have chosen differently. Judge not lest year judged.
I am afraid the authors are making a big mistake in equating large families with righteousness. Spouses who choose to have smaller families are not less righteous than those who choose to have large families. It feels like the authors have felt that they need to justify the size of their family, leading them to feel that their individual choices have made them superior to those who have made different choices.
Furthermore, I am bothered by the authors’ attitude regarding less developed countries. The authors seem to have a very Euro/US centric view, forgetting that birthrates in less developed countries are significantly higher than those in developed countries. God loves all His children equally - including those who are living in less developed countries.
Large families of limited means are usually on welfare, so they're consuming quite a bit, and consuming resources taken from others
My wife was eldest of 13 and helped raise them (all her brothers and sisters) often missing out on school. She was determined to have only one child---and we did. Then 2 years into our marriage we were baptised by two lovely Mormon missionaries. Our attitude to children changed overnight and we ended up with seven----the last being identical twin girls which ended the 'experiment' and we considered our family complete. However, when we were at six and being criticised for too many children, a good friend who also had six said, "I always tell my critics that we are only obeying God's command to multiply & replenish the earth". He went on to explain ... "My wife and I are two people, therefore the first two children were to 'replenish'. Then we needed to multiply 2X2 = 4 ------so the next 4 children are the 'multipliers'. So by simple arithmetic, multiply and replenish to us means we need to have six 6 children. And when accused of overburdening the earth, he used to say, "Our children are well spaced over 20 years, we live simply and practice 'hand-on' clothes and toys and probably use less resources than smaller families who might be spending two incomes on consumables. Because I have only one income and my wife tends to the family needs of making and baking, we are not high consumers and lead simple lives, which means less consumption of unnecessary items and less pressure on resources."
I always thought his advise was sound and sensible, because larger families with limited means are usually consuming less per individual family member than smaller families with more disposable income and this good habit and consumption restraint, tends to be passed along to future generations.
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