"We are more afraid of excellence than of failure." -Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles
Question #89210 posted on 04/12/2017 3:17 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Why aren't Mormons having very many kids anymore? I've noticed that Utah's birthrate has gone down to 2.3. That's not much higher than the national average. We're hardly replacing our own. Whatever happened to multiplying and replenishing the earth and having joy and rejoicing in our posterity? Before so many Mormon families had 6+ kids. Now few are having more than 3 kids. What's happened? Why are we following the world in having fewer kids later in life? Why aren't church leaders pushing us to consider having as many kids as possible like they used to do? I understand that President Monson didn't really ever have a career so he could only support 3 kids. But I can't believe a previously well payed apostle like Elder Renlund only has one daughter and no grandchildren! We would have so many more members and missionaries if we had been making more babies the past number of years! What about our future? Do Mormon girls even want to have large families anymore?! What on earth has happened? When are we going to get back to proclaiming the doctrine of the family with the 1st commandment (given to Adam and Eve) being enforced? I feel like more Mormons who died before 2000 would be rolling in their graves!

-My Name Here

A:

Dear Reader,

You're right. A decrease in birth rates is obviously indicative of a decrease in righteousness (Elder Renlund must not actually be the Lord's apostle, otherwise he would have had more children and grandchildren). The only value in men and women is their capacity to be baby-making machines. You should probably just branch off and form your own true church that forces people to have a certain number of kids based off of their financial status.

I recognize that this isn't exactly what you're saying, but I'm leaving that paragraph as is because it helps to illustrate the ridiculousness of some of your implications, like looking for outward justifications for the preservation of righteousness in the face of not having many kids. Prophets and apostles have said multiple times that the decision of when to have children, and how many to have is strictly between husband and wife and the Lord. That means that regardless of what you think, you (and nobody for that matter) is any position to judge others based on the number of children they have. Maybe the Mormons who died prior to 2000 would be rolling in their graves, but, frankly, they're included in the category of people who can't rightly judge (this is my way of saying it doesn't matter in the slightest what our Mormon ancestors might think of a couple's birthrate).

God leads the Church through His prophets. Based off of the tone of your question, I'm going to assume that you're not a prophet. Thus it's not your place to say what the Church should or should not be teaching about birthrates. The only thing you should be doing is making sure that you're applying what is being taught to your own life. Certainly you shouldn't be declaring the best way for the collective Church to follow God's commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.

~Anathema

A:

Dear you,

Elder Renlund's wife was medically unable to have more kids. And you never know which other families are struggling with similar issues. Don't judge people's commitment to family based on how many kids they've physically been able to have.

I think the commandment to multiply and replenish the Earth doesn't necessarily mean we have to have large families. When I replenish my groceries I replace what I used, I don't buy exponentially more every time. 

The church now allows birth control while before it didn't. Before birth control, it was hard to control how many children you had even if you used the rhythm method or whatever. Frankly, I think a lot of women would have had fewer kids if the church hadn't discouraged birth control back then. Leaders haven't talked much about the reasons for the shift, but you should trust the current prophetic counsel (emphasis mine):

The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is between a husband and wife and the Lord. We should not judge one another on this matter.

And it is true that the shift in Mormon birth rates mirrors the larger cultural shift. However, I think that God takes the culture of the world we live in into account when making these types of decisions. If he didn't, we would all be wearing floor-length dresses all the time and practicing polygamy.

-Zedability

A:

Dear You,

So, I just taught a lesson on the role of intimacy in marriage yesterday in Sunday School, and I think this quote (from President Hinckley, who quotes a manual that was published in 1983, so, you know, waaaaaay before 2000) is pretty applicable:

I am offended by the sophistry that the only lot of the Latter-day Saint woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It’s a clever phrase, but it’s false. Of course we believe in children. The Lord has told us to multiply and replenish the earth that we might have joy in our posterity, and there is no greater joy than the joy that comes of happy children in good families. But he did not designate the number, nor has the Church. That is a sacred matter left to the couple and the Lord. The official statement of the Church includes this language: "Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have the greater responsibility not only of bearing children but of caring for them through childhood, and should help them conserve their health and strength. Married couples should exercise self-control in all of their relationships. They should seek inspiration from the Lord in meeting their marital challenges and rearing their children according to the teachings of the gospel." (Source)

In other words, deciding how many children a husband and wife should have is the husband's business, the wife's business, the Lord's business, and nobody else's business.

Hope that helps!

-Frère Rubik

posted on 04/13/2017 5:08 p.m.
I appreciate the writers addressing the tone of your question, because wow. Here are some legitimate reasons people are not having large families.

Infertility is a big deal. It took 1 1/2 years and fertility drugs for me and my husband to get pregnant with our first child. Some people have to have more invasive fertility treatments to get pregnant. And then there are many people I know who, in spite of all the fertility treatments in the world, can't get pregnant at all. On top of this, infertility is not covered at all by most insurances in the US. Not everyone has tens of thousands of dollars they can put towards trying to get pregnant. Some can only afford to do it once or twice, some not at all.

Having a baby (not even raising it, just bringing it into this world) can be expensive. When people have high deductibles or insurance that doesn't cover maternity (that was a thing before Obamacare), people often spend $8000-10,000, or more, just to give birth to their baby. Some people just can't afford that, even if they wanted to.

Some pregnancies are brutal. I used to want 4-6 kids. One reason I have changed my mind is because I get incredibly sick for the first half of my pregnancy. I don't throw up a ton (still more than I would like, mind you), but the rest of the time I feel so nauseated that I can't really do much at all. That was bad enough with my first pregnancy, but now with my second, I have to attempt to take care of my first child while suffering like that. And I feel bad complaining because there are women who have it worse! They throw up so much they have to be hospitalized with IVs to keep them and their unborn child alive, sometimes more than once. That's even harder to do if you've already got kids at home. With pregnancies like that, it's just logistically difficult to have many children.

So there you go. Not any of your business, but there are some reasons why righteous LDS people don't have large famili
posted on 04/14/2017 12:23 p.m.
Another consideration is that modern society is no longer conducive to large families, even if you have the fertility and money needed to do so.

My wife and I both come from large Mormon families (7+ kids), and neither of us wanted to put our kids through what we went through. We ended up with roughly half that number of kids (still "large" by today's standards) because we wanted to give our kids the time and attention our parents weren't able to give to us. We wanted to be able to fit everyone in one car without a "BMW"(carseats make this much harder than it used to be). We want to be grandparents to our grandkids (my dad died, of old age, when I was 29). We want our children to occasionally get new clothes instead of hand-me-downs.

I have a brother who went the large-Mormon-family route (9 kids) and frankly his kids are a mess, many out of the church, with dead-end jobs, etc, after being raised in a chaotic free-for-all because both parents were working most of the time to support their large family. Some of my siblings ended up the same way, and I think it's a direct result of my parents not being able to parent them enough. Some people can pull it off, but many can't.

As we've moved away from agrarian society it has become harder to have large families, and frankly, not nearly as necessary. Kids rarely die of disease anymore. We don't need farmhands. We're not commanded to overpopulate the earth, just replenish it. Let's focus on the quality of our kids, not the quantity.
posted on 04/14/2017 8:55 p.m.
One more point that, having been overlooked, may be a contributing factor:

About the brithrate of the state of Utah. Though it may be difficult for some people to realize, there are plenty of people in this state that are not members of the church, moreso than ever. And much of that has to do with "immigration," or people from other states moving here, of which there has been a lot of in recent years (I overhear some "locals" [those who have lived here their whole lives] occasionally talk about how Utah is becoming "another California," with all the new people moving in—and the differences in religion, culture, etc. they bring with them. In some senses, they seem to be right).

In short, the members of the LDS church in Utah may not be the only ones contributing to the numerical value of the birthrate, especially if "newcomers" ncreaset he population yet have no children at all.

-A local
posted on 04/14/2017 8:56 p.m.
I think the commenter who talked about having fewer kids than his and his wife's families has some good points, but I don't think that any serious discussion of kids can include the idea of "quality" of kids over "quantity" of kids, as the commentor suggested. Even if, anecdotally, nieces and nephews from a big family have dead-end jobs, etc., does not mean they aren't each a child of God. I know plenty of small families with kids with dead-end jobs. There is something to be said for being aware of the time and means you have to raise children (and many people do a great job of raising lots of children on very little means, like my parents, as you pointed out), but parents in those situations may have been prompted to have a lot of kids. No matter what, the "quality" of the children over the "quantity" of the children overlooks that no matter the family size or how a child turns out, each child is a child of God, meant to come to earth and have a body.