Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals understand the value of children. There was a time when families had many children who helped to provide for the needs of the family. Families have steadily decreased in numbers until the “ideal” family consists of only two or three children – or even one or none.
Richard and Linda Eyre wrote a two-part series on the topic of family size and making the decision on having children. They realize and state several times that the decision to have children and how many children to have is a decision that should be made between the husband, wife, and the Lord. Therefore, it is no one else’s business. However, the Eyres want to make sure that couples understand the seriousness of the decision.
The first article is titled “Why the First Commandment Ever Given Is So Relevant Today.” The commandment given to Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish the earth” extended to their posterity throughout time and has never been rescinded. Therefore, it applies to couples as much in 2018 as it did in any previous year.
The Eyres quote New York Times columnist David Brooks as saying, “people are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice – commitments to family, God, craft and country.” The Eyres continue with the following paragraphs:
As birth rates decline, many “macro” economic problems result from the declining workforce and the “inverted pyramid” of more and more old people and less and less young people to take care of them and to pay the taxes and social security that support them.
But the real problem is the micro problem of more and more adults who have no children and live apart from children; and who thus miss the greatest joy and learning experiences of life – not to mention not doing their part to create and build the next generation, and to keep the world vital and alive.
The article continues by sharing a few examples of why children are necessary for a healthy world. There are 224 countries in the world, and the birthrate in 116 of those countries is less than the 2.1 replacement rate. This means that those countries are “running out of people.” The government of Singapore “now pays a $10,000 bonus to each woman who gives birth to a child.” These governments are no longer worrying about overpopulation but are trying to solve the opposite problem – not enough babies being born.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follow the same trend as the rest of the world. Most members have an “understanding of the Pre-mortal life and the need for all of God’s children to experience a mortal existence, [so] we have a compelling additional reason to bring children into the world.” We understand the importance of families in Heavenly Father’s plan for His children and our eternal progression. “Yet we are experiencing the same trends as the world.” The Eyres end their first article with these paragraphs.
And let us end with two words that we used earlier but want to re-emphasize. One is “replenish.” Children not only replenish the earth. They replenish us – they refresh us and teach us and challenge us and worry us and thrill us to our core. They teach us to love in ways that are otherwise not even imagined. They refine us. And all of that is well summarized in the world “replenish.”
The other word is “Joy”. The joy we find and will continue eternally to find in our children, in our posterity, is the very joy that Nephi [Lehi] said we became mortal that we might have (2 Ne. 2:25).
It is the joy of responsibility and of sacrifice, of loving irrationally and unconditionally, of doing everything for those too small to do anything for us, of seeing new and improved versions of ourselves, of sharing small triumphs and small heartaches that seem very big, of raising them until they leave home and then continuing to love them and care for them until the inevitable day when they start caring for you….
If a reader has not caught the importance of having children from the first article, the Eyres’ second article should do the trick. It is titled “Why the State of the Family Matters and What We Can Do About It.” This article begins with a quick review of the main ideas of the first one, discussing how “most developed countries in the world are now losing population” and then moves into its own focus.
And with more and more chosen childlessness, more and more single children by choice, and less siblings and cousins, the social dynamic changes, as does the emotional resilience of kids.
The interesting question for Church members is that, in addition to the economic, social and emotional problems of fewer kids, there also may be a spiritual problem. After all, we believe in a pre-mortal place where spirit children of God are awaiting their turn at mortality. Do they wait longer and longer as people have fewer children? Is the divine timetable threatened?
Trends are hard to buck, but shouldn’t members of the Church be setting their own trends rather than following the trends of the world? …
The problem, of course, is that family is no longer thought of by most of the world as the “basic institution.” Collectively, we seem to think most of individual rights, not family rights; individual freedoms, not family sacrifice and commitment; individual concerns more than family concerns.
But in the Church we should know better! We know that the Celestial Kingdom is a family kingdom and that the Familial order is the very government of God. We know that an individual is not a perfectible entity and that it is eternally married couples and families that will inherit the top level of heaven. We know that all will have the chance to marry and to have children either here or in the Spirit World to follow.
Yet we still shy away from talking as much as we should about marriage and procreation and the stewardship of children – in a weird form of Mormon “political correctness” we don’t want to talk about these things in a Church where half of adult members are single. Actually, isn’t this a reason that we should talk more about it?
The authors make the point that members of the Church should not be following the world’s example. We have been taught that “where much is given, much is required” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:3). Therefore, members of the Church should be living differently than people who do not have the same knowledge. We should be bucking the trends!
One interesting fact about all this is that childlessness and small families is a first world problem. People in third world countries are continuing to have large families. As the populations in first world countries continue to decrease, there will be more and more third world peoples move in to replace them. Do we really want our nations run by people with third world mentality? If we do, we better prepare ourselves to become citizens of a third-world nation! The Eyres end their article with the following statement and two challenges.
As we emphasized last week, there should be very individual and unique answers for each family. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each family and each parent and each child has a particular set of needs and capacities. And of course, we are so aware of the many couples and single individuals who desperately want children (or more children) but who don’t have the opportunity for that right now. And the sole purpose of both of these articles is not to give answers, but to help stimulate and motivate the right questions – asked in prayer by each unique individual in each unique situation.
Let us give you two challenges: First, we challenge you to think about this issue on the macro – what is happening in the world to families, and why does it matter to us? …
And secondly: We challenge you to discuss this topic with members of your own family. Are we sucked in by the trends of the world? Are we thinking of this through the Gospel perspective? How will lower birthrates in developed countries and higher ones in Africa and other third world places affect the world? Do you know families who wish they had had one less child? Do you know families who wish they could have (or had chosen to have) more? Should the default switch be on or off? Does an additional child place economic hardships on a family? Are there children waiting to come into your family? Have you found your own individual answer through deep thought and prayer?
The Eyres leave us with much to consider. The choice to have children – or more children – lies with the husband and wife in partnership with God. Each individual, couple, and family is unique with its own distinctive needs and abilities. What is right for one family may be wrong for another. There is no place for us to judge one another.
However, we should each consider our own position and ask ourselves the hard questions, many of which are stated above. We can all strengthen our families, communities, and nations by counseling with the Lord and doing our part in replenishing the world.