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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : The Shrinking Family – What’s the Cause? » The Shrinking Family – What’s the Cause?

The Shrinking Family – What’s the Cause?

Don - May 22, 2007

I’m old enough to have had all the kids we’re going to have, six. It was the perfect number for us, 3 girls, then we figured out what we were doing and had 3 boys.

Compared to other families in our ward and stake we were an average family. We knew many who had 9, 10, 12+. We were comfortable with our family size.

As the years have gone by the family size has shrunk, outside the church but even more so inside the church.

Why is this happening? Is it the “me” generation, more worried about me than having children. Children cost too much so we better cut back or we’ll miss out on things. There’s a stigma of having too many kids now that there wasn’t then.

I don’t hear the brethern talk much about family size, they used to, at least indirectly. I think part of it might also be the peer pressure of looking around and seeing smaller families, so don’t rock the boat, don’t be different by having more than a couple of kids.

For those of you with young families now, any of you with 4 or more? What is the feedback you get in and out of the church? Does the feedback change for you who may have 5 or 6?

Why have the brethern quit talking about the “women’s responsibility” of being a mother, blessings of raising a family, a mothers role, and such things that used to be quite common?


  1. We have 4. I have never percieved any feedback whatever from any church member, either positive or negative; they seem very nonjudgemental about the number of children we have. I have occasionally gotten negative comments from people who are outside the church, who think that 4 is too many for one reason or another. I think it just isn’t “cool” to devote a lot of time or resources to raising children. I don’t completely share your perception that church leaders do not emphasize the importance of motherhood or parenting in general, but I do notice they stay away from comments about numbers of children and they do not discourage contraception.

    Comment by E — May 22, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

  2. I think that the downward trend in LDS family size more or less parallels the same shift with mainstream American families, though it’s a couple of children above the national average. I used to have long conversations with my old roommate (who’s now an investment banker) about this. Probably the largest factor has to do with the increases in living costs and the relatively unchanging real wages. This leads to making it very difficult to support a family on the income of only one parent, much more difficult than a generation ago. That’s what my roommate used to say. Then, you have the general rule that as literacy rates and education rates rise among women, the childbearing rates get lower. This is a worldwide trend, and it might be explained in many ways, not the least of which is that it’s easier for a women not pursuing a college degree to start having children earlier than women who are seeking degrees in higher education. That’s what I’ve heard from my geography and poli sci classes, anyways.

    I’ve also noticed a trend at BYU away from traditional, formal dating. Yes, there is a lot more formal dating here in the valley than anywhere else I’ve lived, but as I talk with people who were here ten and twenty years ago, the general impression I get is that we just aren’t dating as much. This also seems to parallel the general trend in this country.

    Comment by onelowerlight — May 22, 2007 @ 12:54 pm

  3. I’ll add, I do think the number of children my husband and I have might have been higher if we did not need to spend so many years on education in order to support them. A generation ago, I think most LDS women started having children in their early 20′s; now it would be very difficult to support them at that age. Even if the couple are committed to having a SAHM, it wouln’t usually be possible for a young husband to support them until several more years are invested in schooling; meanwhile, someone has to work to pay the bills.

    Comment by E — May 22, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

  4. I really think the general authorities have gotten a long way away from where they used to be when it comes to mothers, families, and child birth.

    I can remember when they were very specific about not waiting on your education or other things to start your family. They talked about the importance of the mother in the home, and her responsibilities to nurture children. They specifically discourage mothers from being out of the home and or working.

    I think I could also find some talks about discouraging birth control and family size. Now if anything is said about birth control or family size they say things like \”It\’s between you and the Lord\” (which it is, but it seems like the perspective has changed).

    Oh, by the way…I\’m not trying to be critical of the brethern, I just find it interesting and wonder why?

    Comment by Don Clifton — May 22, 2007 @ 1:42 pm

  5. Don,

    The answer to your question is: car seats. Seriously.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 22, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  6. In general, Mormon women are making education and training a higher priority (than they used to). That is one factor in what is happening.

    Comment by danithew — May 22, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

  7. Jacob J –the answer to that are 15 seat passenger vans. ;)

    I’m 28 years old. I am a SAHM. I have my BS from BYU. My husband is going back to school next year, and I will continue to be a SAHM. We have four children and hope to have more. I see no reason whatsoever to be “financially ready” before having children. In a gospel sense, that makes absolutely no sense to me. In a worldy sense, it would never happen because “financially ready” would constantly be upgraded.

    Here are things I’ve heard from members in the Church directed towards me:
    “Oh, you have four now –2 of each? Wow, are you done then?”
    “You’re having aonther one? What’s wrong with you?”
    “I would just go so crazy having more than one child. I don’t know how you do it.”
    “You want more?! Why would you do that to yourself?”
    “They probably won’t give you a calling because of all the young kids you have –and your newborn.”
    “You must be so brave!”

    #2 had a point about educating women, and Pres. Hinckley is encouragin women to get their degrees now. That could have an effect, although I don’t understand why it’s so wrong to get a degree and then have children. Why do women have to have their “career” first? I’m saving it for later when my kids are grown. Elder Faust spoke of doing things in “seasons.” But I figure that the best season to raise my kids is when I have the energy to do so (that would be 20′s to 30′s!)When I’m about 40, MFT MBA, here I come!

    Comment by Cheryl — May 22, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  8. Oh, stink. This educated woman can’t spell. President Hinckley is encouraging women…

    Comment by Cheryl — May 22, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  9. It is the ever prolonging of adolescence as we extend the education needed to financially support a family today ad infinitum. My guess is the brethren don’t harp on it as much because so much of it is economic necessity. How can we preach both that you should not put off education for kids and that you should try to have mothers home and provident living. It is a real quagmire, one that is stressing society as a whole.

    Comment by Doc — May 22, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

  10. Why have the brethern quit talking about the “women’s responsibility” of being a mother, blessings of raising a family, a mothers role, and such things that used to be quite common?

    They really haven’t quit talking about this, but they also have to address a worldwide audience that represents the gamut of life. The messages are still there, though.

    Comment by m&m — May 22, 2007 @ 3:08 pm

  11. This is bad news for the Church’s future growth, and is probably why it is no longer growing nearly as rapidly as it once was.


    Rodney Stark recently conducted research showing that growth in the ancient Church was primarily attributable to population growth within the Church; and this is till true for Churches today.


    Sometimes I worry that the Church is fading into the sunset; more concerned with helping members with their self esteem than their salvation.

    Comment by Random Guy — May 22, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  12. I hear messages (from various sources) such as “get an education”, “stay out of debt”, “try and raise a family on the father’s income”, “don’t put off having kids”, “have a large family”. For me something has to give.

    The other thing that I don’t think anyone has mentioned is that back in the day it was okay to send you kids out from an early age to play with friends for hours on end. In today’s society we can’t be that carefree. That takes its toll on the SAHM, a burden I don’t think was felt to the same extent by previous generations.

    Comment by gomez — May 22, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  13. I think one thing is that going into debt for education is allowed in the teachings we receive.

    Gomez, I do think the stress on SAHMs is greater in some way because our society is more dangerous, but people still do large families in spite of that.

    I don’t think we will ever fade into the sunset, but there is no doubt that smaller family sizes have an effect on the growth of the church — not just in children of record, but also future missionaries, etc.

    Comment by m&m — May 22, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

  14. Some of this is just perception–family size in the church (in the U.S.) has pretty much exactly tracked family size in the U.S. population as a whole + 1. That is, when the average number of children in the U.S. was 3.6 during the baby boom, the church average was 4.6. When it dropped to around 2 in the general U.S. population, it dropped to around 3 for Mormons. This has been true since at least the turn of the last century, with no measurable correlation to official rhetoric.

    (If you want to read more, check Melissa Proctor’s Fall 1993 Dialogue article, Lester Bush’s book _Multiply and Replenish_ or any number of articles by Tim B. Heaton)

    Comment by Kristine — May 22, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

  15. The beginning of Idiocracy is pretty funny, with a white trash family having a ton of kids while a rich, educated couple say the economy’s not stable enough to have children yet.

    The notion that it costs more to have children these days is, I think, bizarre. What has changed is the standard of living we’re willing to live at.

    Comment by Eric Russell — May 22, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

  16. In addition to what Kristine said, I would add that my perception (which may be wrong, since it is based just on my experience, but anyway . . .) is that the issue with your average middle class SAHM LDS woman isn’t money but it is the time commitment in the sense of driving to soccer practice, ballet, positive discipline, speech therapy, having heart-to-hearts, and oh, yes, never ever loosing your patience. Also you can’t send the kids outside to play anymore because there’s no one out there but child molesters. In other words, the investment per child (in time and energy, not money) has skyrocketed since the 50s so it is no surprise women aren’t having as many.

    Comment by Julie M. Smith — May 22, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

  17. And I could add: lack of family support (i.e., a sister also home with kids who lives five miles from you) and expectations of time/money/energy for preschool, etc.

    Comment by Julie M. Smith — May 22, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  18. I think it has to do with a lot of things. Like someone mentioned, the parenting culture in the US has become more intese and I think that leads to more “burnout” on the part of SAHMs. If you feel like you have to intensely focus on each child and “maximize their potential” in all the myriad ways that society tells you to, it can end up giving you a lot of anxiety about your ability to raise a lot of kids. I also know that some of my friends that came from big families did not have a good experience and they don’t want to repeat that if they don’t have to. Access to and acceptance of birth control is much more widespread than it was even twenty years ago.

    Like Kristine pointed out, members of the church are still having more kids than the population at large, but the declining rates mirror other trends in society. One of those trends is the rising c-section rate. It is pretty much impossible to find a doctor who will deliver a breech baby vaginally these days, whereas twenty years ago most would. I know a number of young mothers in the church who had their first babies by c-section, and it will be impossible for them to have 9 or 10 kids. Maybe 3 or 4. Not only the physical toll of c-section but the economic one as well must be counted. A c-section costs a lot more than a vaginal birth, and it can be a much more difficult and time-consuming recovery. Moms I know that had difficult birth experiences are not as gung-ho about having 6 or 7 more kids. Also, someone mentioned carseats facetiously. But it’s true that the investment in kid’s safety and other equipment can be a factor. Personally I think it’s better that we can’t just pile five kids into the backseat of a car like my parents did for years. But the fact that once you get past two or three kids you have to get a minivan is a contributing one for some people I know (myself included, to be honest). Other, slightly more frivolous (in my opinion) concerns like how many kids to put in a bedroom or being able to buy brand new clothes for your kids play a part too. Honestly, I’m sometimes kind of shocked at the materialism here in my ward that’s mostly young student families. A while ago in Relief Society I actually heard two women my age making fun of someone for shopping at DI and wearing hand-me-downs. Also, going along with the church mirroring national trends, the marriage age is going up slightly in the church as well. There still are plenty of women starting families at 19 or 20, but there are a significant amount starting at 29 or older as well. That will limit your family size.

    Personally, I’m glad that official rhetoric is emphasizing quality over quantity when it comes to family size. I’ve seen some families that were unable to really care for all their kids and nurture them in the right way just because of the size. It’s pointless to have a large family in a quest to be virtuous, only to be unable to support them. Plus, as someone else pointed out, the church is a global organization and cultural norms are different all over the world, as well as economic ability to be able to support large families. Again, I really don’t see anything wrong with 6 or 7 kids becoming the norm for “large” families within the church. I know plenty of families that are that big and are doing well. Of the moms that I know, most want a bigger family, but for them that means anywhere between 4 and 6 kids, and that doesn’t seem like a problem to me.

    Comment by FoxyJ — May 22, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

  19. Why have the brethern quit talking about the “women’s responsibility” of being a mother, blessings of raising a family, a mothers role, and such things that used to be quite common?

    Actually, the brethren haven’t stopped talking about this at all. They’ve just stopped suggesting a family size and equating having a bigger family with being a better parent. I think that’s fine for people like me, who physically can’t have more kids (I only have 2) or my sister-in-law who had her first baby at 40. At the same time, if we are worried about selfishness and materialism, maybe a little more rhetoric about welcoming children and stretching our abilities wouldn’t hurt. I don’t know…

    Comment by FoxyJ — May 22, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

  20. Cheryl, how are you and your husband financially supporting your family? Is is 100% from your husband’s earnings, or do you rely on other resources such as help from parents, loans and public or church assistance? Do you honestly believe that parents have no obligation to financially prepare to care for their children or do you just deny that there could ever be any difficulty in doing so at a young age? I am not in any way criticizing what you are doing, in fact I think it is exemplary. But I do wonder whether you really mean to imply that other people are wrong if they do not make the same choices or have the same opportunities.

    Comment by E — May 22, 2007 @ 6:41 pm

  21. Well, most of the reasons I had thought of have been mentioned (older marriage age, increased education, acceptance and use of BC, better spacing, etc.) BUT, one thing that I think has not changed is the attitude among many LDS women that having more children means being more spiritual. The women in my branch’s playgroups are mostly in their 20s and it seems to me that thay feel like a better person with each additional kid (and expect others to feel they are better people, too). I find this alarming, because I don’t think some of them are handling the kids they have right now very well and I would hate to be a kid growing up in a house with a Mom that is frazzled 24/7 (my Mom has 10 kids, but only got frazzled on special occassions). It just doesn’t seem like the best environment, and it cannot be comfortable. Yet, I believe many of them will continue to have kids largely because they feel they are expected to. Too bad.

    Comment by a spectator — May 22, 2007 @ 7:02 pm

  22. FoxyJ, you’ve also got to factor in those of us who NEVER would have had a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th without a c/s . . .

    “my Mom has 10 kids, but only got frazzled on special occassions”

    LOL. That’s my new goal in life.

    Comment by Julie M. Smith — May 22, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

  23. The most important point of all has been overlooked.

    Birth rates are well below replacement level in In the United States, the native, non-immigrant population does not have enough children to keep the population stable. (Once immigrant childbirths are added, the US almost has enough children to hold its population steady.) Certainly Americans of European ancestory do not have nearly enough children to replace themselves.

    Today about half the world lives in nations with sub-replacement fertility.All the nations of East Asia, with the exception of Mongolia, have below replacement rate fertility. Countries in Eastern Europe are in most cases quite dramatically below replacement fertility. Western Europe also is below replacement. Among other major Eurasian states, Turkey, Kazakhstan and most severely Russia have sub-replacement rates. In the Middle East, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria and Lebanon are below replacement. Canada and Australia are similar to Western Europe, while the United States is nearly at replacement with 2.09 births per woman.


    Women who have more than their share of children are saving the world.


    I pray every day for the good women and men, in and out of the Church, who have large families–and with very little explicit support from the Church.

    Again, they’re saving the world. They really, really, are.

    Comment by Random Guy — May 22, 2007 @ 7:22 pm

  24. Smaller LDS family sizes are the outcome of several converging factors: 1) more women obtaining higher education, 2) more women entering and pursuing careers, 3) more women working than ever before, 3) more women marrying later in life, 4) more expensive to raise children, etc., 5) more women deciding when and if to have families than ever before.

    One reason divorce rates have risen so dramatically over the last 40 years is that women have careers, income, power, worldly influence and prestige and therefore, they don’t have to put up with abusive, lazy, or uninspiring men in failed marital relationships.

    Comment by Blue Cheese — May 22, 2007 @ 7:29 pm

  25. While divorce raised, one should note that we are at record lows for divorce now as compared to the last 30 years.

    I think people are holding off having kids because expense, more consideration for the health of the mother (both physical and emotional), the need among many for two working parents, divorce, and then simple social pressure. There’s less pressure to have 8 kids and most peers have only 2 at most. That affects even those who claim not to be affected. There’s also the competition issue. When the kids your kid is going to be competing against have all the resources of a one or two kid family there’s worry that you need to give those resources to your own which, for most families, entails fewer kids.

    Comment by clark — May 22, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  26. To add, I think some discount the greater expense of kids too much. I have excellent health insurance. However I look at the bills this year from having a kid and then all the medical expenses due to ear infections, croup, and so forth, and it’s staggering how it adds up over time. I’m reasonably well off – not rich by any means but probably better than many with more kids than I. Yet it really is a huge burden. And health expenses and then dental only keep going up.

    Comment by clark — May 22, 2007 @ 7:39 pm

  27. E-
    I want to apologize if I sounded rude or condescending. That was not my intent.

    Financially, we relied on my husband’s full scholarship to BYU, one year of loans, and pell grants to get us through college. After we started having children (one week before we graduated our daughter was born), I stayed home. My husband has only his business degree and we’ve lived on his income for 6 years. I do teach piano lessons on the side, but never made enough to make a dent (I pay for sitters to watch my kids while I teach). I teach mostly out of love for music (I’m being completely honest here). We recently moved to California and will be going back to school next year (he’ll be getting his MBA). And yes, we will probably have to take out student loans to do so.

    My beef isn’t with people who make sound financial decisions (like going to school, or saving money for a rainy day, or buying a home, etc.), it’s with people claiming that they cannot financially support a child because they aren’t a doctor yet. Or a lawyer. Or a dentist. Or have their PhD. What constitutes as “financially ready”?? Having a house? Owning two cars? Being able to send the kids to boarding school in Europe? Going to Disneyland every week? Buying the best clothes?
    My children do not have the best toys; they have hand-me-down clothes (at least the younger ones do); they don’t participate in myriads of sports/dancing/theater events. But they are happy and we do the best we can for them.

    Do I wish we had more money so that we could afford to buy a home in California? Heck yes, I do! But we already own a home in Provo. Do I wish we had enough money to pay for school next year? Yes! But do I have enough money to support children? Give them food, shelter, love, and attention? YES. In that respect, I’m the richest woman alive.

    And personally, I don’t want my kids to have everything. They need to learn to work. They shouldn’t expect everything to be handed to them. I want them to realize that struggling in this world doesn’t mean they should deny themselves the blessing of having a family.
    When lines blur between not having children because “the Lord told us not to” and “we’re not financially able to handle that”, it’s scary. I would much rather put my faith in God and trust Him when I get that “it’s time again” feeling. (Even if I usually suffer from mild PPD and it’s not always easy.)

    P.S. E, I do not know your personal situation, so I want to make sure you understand that I’m not judging you. This is how I feel in a general sense –I’m not singling you out. :)

    Comment by Cheryl — May 22, 2007 @ 8:00 pm

  28. I would think the fact that LDS families have more children on average than non-LDS families would be an interesting case study in terms of answering WHY?

    For example, practicing orthodox Catholics have a compelling transparent reason – no use of birth control results in a larger family size. For LDS folks this isn’t as apparent. Family size is a personal matter and personal prayer, although certainly the *perception* is the larger the family size, “the more righteous the parents.”

    This is a fascinating social-religious dynamic that is unique within the LDS culture. Many of my good active Protestant friends usually have families with 2 kids. They are very religious, very active, and yet very happy with (only) their 2 kids. There is no peer pressure, social pressure, religious appeal that whispers that “the larger the family size, the more righteous the parents.” In fact when they attend church everyone else has the similar 2 kids, and so they fit right in and never even consider “they could be more righteous if they had more children.”

    So are LDS families having more children because they genuinely love families more than non-LDS families? Or are they having more children because they feel a religious obligation, or social-cultural norm unique to LDS people that smaller families are taboo (ie indicates a greater degree of personal selfishness)

    Is it an accepted fact that LDS parents who purposely decide to have 2 children, rather than 6 (assuming they are healthy, financially able, emotionally able) are deemed selfish, or at least more selfish, than the couple who has 6 children?

    Why is this an acceptable norm for active highly religious non-LDS families, but not an acceptable norm for LDS families? Don’t both love their children equally and unequivically? And if you argue that LDS love their children more than non-LDS families, who do you think is acting more judgementally?

    Comment by Razorfish — May 22, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

  29. Cheryl, we are definitely in agreement about the need to put faith in God and trust him when we get that “it’s time” feeling or any other guidance. I guess the exception to making “wise” choices is when the Holy Ghost prompts you to do something “dumb”. This has happened in my life on several occasions and I am so grateful that we do not always need to rely on our own wisdom.

    Comment by E — May 22, 2007 @ 8:08 pm

  30. Random Guy, I think you’re overstating the dire risks of the world population not replace itself; it’s doubled since 1960. And it is not projected to make a pricipitous dropoff–though it is projected to return to 1950 levels. Perhaps the decline in birthrate is a good thing so we can avoid running ourselves (our resources) faster than we have strength.

    And no, I’m not advocating 0 population or anything, nor am I demanding new doctrine or biting my thumb at “multiply & replenish”. I came from a family of 7 kids and I’d like to have around 4. And, if you believe Wikipedia, the replacement rate needed to sustain a population is 2.1 children per woman, so, again, 2-4 is perhaps not so dire. And I’m obviously planning to live up to the replacement rate expectations.

    As for why, I think FoxyJ said it well.

    Or, maybe we’re finally listening to the Spirit teaching us moderation in all things.


    Comment by fMhArtemis — May 22, 2007 @ 8:40 pm

  31. woops, meant to say “avoid running ourselves (and our resources)…”

    Comment by fMhArtemis — May 22, 2007 @ 8:41 pm

  32. Taxes! A few generations ago direct taxes (incomes, sales, etc.) were non-existent, regulations (indirect tax on companies, paid by consumes) were few, and inflation (the hidden tax) was extremely low. Today all these add up to consume 50-70% of ones lifeblood. Two wage earners are (almost) required. Blame Government (and society for allowing government) for this to happen.

    Comment by ed42 — May 22, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

  33. I found it interesting to see people using cultural/societal expectations as a reason not to have more…that somehow we “have” to have all the lessons, etc. In reality, the leaders have tried to steer us away from the “keep up with the Joneses” not only in what we OWN but in how we spend our time. So in my mind, not having money, time or energy for all the things that are not requirements and in fact may be distractions seems like a reason that ought to be reevaluated.

    ed42, your estimate seems a titch high to me, at least in my experience. Add in tax deductions for having more children on the average plus for religious contributions and it seems we would have less tax burden than the average families do.

    Comment by m&m — May 22, 2007 @ 8:57 pm

  34. I hear messages (from various sources) such as “get an education”, “stay out of debt”, “try and raise a family on the father’s income”, “don’t put off having kids”, “have a large family”. For me something has to give.

    This is what I find so interesting. How do you balance not going into debt with having kids before you or your spouse graduate and get a real job? Someone mentioned that going into debt for schooling is acceptable, but doesn’t there have to be a balance?

    Because what I find somewhat disconcerting is the number of couples who have the husband in grad school, the mother as a SAHM, and live not only off loans but also off the government. The government must temporarily pay for the childbirth costs, food, ect., of future lawyers, doctors, and executives. Is that really what welfare was set up for?

    I must admit I will probably have to turn to the government for my childbirth costs, but I still feel uncomfortable about it. If the government has to subsidize my baby, am I really ready to have one?

    Comment by Katie — May 22, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  35. The idea of big families as a moral principle isn’t part of the church anymore. I joined the church 10 years ago (outside the US) and only came across this concept through cultural contact with my DH’s family. I have never heard a hint of it taught in church curriculum.

    Comment by arare&radiantmaiden — May 23, 2007 @ 12:22 am

  36. I’ve long noticed a difference in lds family size between typical families in, say, Utah and here on the east coast. I’ve always attributed much of it to long commutes to work, the expense of living in big cities, fathers (or mothers) who are out of town for days at a time. It’s more a function of how we choose to live, or where the jobs are, than it is a lack of spirituality. When everyone lived in the same community and grandma and grandpa were just a few blocks away, we could raise large families much easier.

    Comment by Marcus — May 23, 2007 @ 5:23 am

  37. More education is needed now. A bachelors degree is like the new high school diploma. if a women wants to get an education where she could provide for her family reasonably well if needed there are only a few bachelors degrees that would let her do that. everything is requiring more and more years of schooling. And its more important than ever considering how often lay off and down sizing, out sourceing overseas has become. Very few people get a job and work there for thirty years. So more women are getting more education for this reason and its hard to have kids while attending school or at least until you are well into it

    Comment by Anon — May 23, 2007 @ 7:17 am

  38. Society doesn’t demand that any particular couple “has to have children” as it has in ages past. There are lots of options for families today. Many people choose not to have children. This is the case for me and my wife. It is not a political statement, but a combination of the fact that my wife and I got married 3 years ago and we are approaching 40 – and also the fact that I have known since I was in high school that I did not want the responsibility of being a father. My views on this were formed long before I joined the LDS church about 10 years ago.

    Comment by Phouchg — May 23, 2007 @ 7:18 am

  39. My friend grew up with nine kids in his family and he wants to have six or seven. I grew up with six kids in my family and I want to have at least four. Someone who grows up with two kids probably would be content to have only one or two. We all have our different ideas of what a “family” feels like and that perception often is the primary informant of how big of families we should have. I’m not saying that this is always the case, but it’s something that has been overlooked on this thread and it’s more obvious and natural to me than some kind of conscious financial decision or effects of birth control availability. It just comes down to what we’re used to and what we’re comfortable with.

    Comment by Rusty — May 23, 2007 @ 7:23 am

  40. The reasons are legion

    1. Society has changed. LDS are typically 1 kid more then average so we are around 3 per woman right now

    2. $$$$$$ Housing costs have risen so rapidly that it impacting the issue

    3. Our lifestyle expectations have changed

    4. I like the car seat comments. That issue has actually made me put off my 5th child for a couple of years

    5. GA’s backed off starting in the 1980′s

    6. Selfishness

    In my ward in TX that runs 80-90% activity and almost everybody is a SAHM seems like a real throwback

    With Real Estate averaging around $60 a Sqft the average family size seems larger here then in other areas that I have lived in. We are running about 4 per complete family.(IE done with kids) We have a couple of 7′s and lots of 4′s and 5′s. I am of the opinion that 2700 sqft houses for 180K is relieving a lot of the financial burden that large families exp.

    Are people in CA and the east coast expensive areas seeing 4-7 kids commonly?

    Comment by bbell — May 23, 2007 @ 7:38 am

  41. By the way….

    I am hearing from people in Utah that are moving here that with the rising housing prices the SAHM large family model is falling out of favor and getting less common in Utah.

    One sister told me that she was the only SAHM in her entire Bountiful ward.

    Can anybody confirm?

    Comment by bbell — May 23, 2007 @ 7:44 am

  42. bbell,
    In our ward in Brooklyn there are only two families with four kids, both moved here over 15 years ago and bought their townhouses (when an average family could buy a townhouse) so they could have the space necessary to raise four kids. Now those same townhouses would go for well over $1.5 million. Hence, no families with four kids are rushing to move into our ward. Only a couple of couples have three kids, a handful have two, a bunch have one and a bunch have none.

    Comment by Rusty — May 23, 2007 @ 7:49 am

  43. I live in Orange County and I can think of at least 4 families in our ward with around 6 kids or more. I don’t really know a lot of the families in our ward though.

    We always planned on having two and adopting two, but as most people know, what you plan on when it comes to having children is often not what you end up with. We got married very young, with no plans for college or careers and had kids right away. As a result we were extremely poor for years and our kids have felt it. But we survived it and looking back, I still feel like they all came when they were supposed to.

    Comment by Susan M — May 23, 2007 @ 8:01 am

  44. The comments are a mixed bag. Lots of questions about a 5th child and lots of “do you want a girl”? I have 4 boys

    Church members are a lot more supportive then the non members.

    People 70 plus are the most supportive. From them we get comments like…. its so nice to see young people that are family oriented etc. I wish my kids would have some babies etc. The women go crazy when they see us.

    Another interesting group is Asians. Lots of comments about how many boys we have. They always want to touch the 3 year old twins and ruffle their blonde hair. I often wonder what it would be like to walk the streets of Japan

    Singles are the most negative. Esp the men. I get constant comments from single men. Esp when out by myself with the 4 boys. I regularly get asked how much money I make by them. My wife constantly gets asked by young single non member women what I do for a living.

    Comment by bbell — May 23, 2007 @ 8:09 am

  45. A few months back Dallin Oaks presided our stake conference, and spent a few minutes encouraging marriage of the young and greater fertility; he said this is a great concern to Church leaders. He described a stake he had visited that had something like 100 primary children in the whole stake, and said “Do you know what that means? That stake is in liquidation.” A dozen years ago, Marlin K. Jensen presided another stake conference I attended, and said more or less “We don’t talk about it as much anymore, but we still want you to have large families.”

    Here’s a little story. A couple months ago, my 11-year-old son missed the bus home from elementary school. My wife was out, so the principal called me at work to tell me about the problem. Our house is 1-1/4 miles from the school, so the solution seemed obvious to me: the boy walks. The principal just couldn’t accept that, even though I made it clear that I thought it pathetic to consider walking that distance beyond the capability of an 11-year-old. The principal insisted that I allow her to drive him home. I told her that I didn’t expect her duties to the whole school to allow such personal attention to my son, but the conversation went on too long, and I relented that she could drive him home.

    Car seats is a good shorthad for this problem. We love our children so much that we swathe them in care so elaborate that it can only be bestowed on a few children before our capacity to bestow it is depleted.

    Comment by John Mansfield — May 23, 2007 @ 8:48 am

  46. Much has been said about reduction of fertility due to women beginning to have children later in life. However, it appears to me that fertility later in life has taken a hit too. There are some women we hear so much about who don’t have children until their late 30s or into their 40s, and then have one or two, but what about the women who begin having children when they are in their 20s? It seems much less common than in previous generations for there to be siblings with a 20+ age difference between them. This doesn’t have much to do with how many children the parents feel they can handle, because the years such children are in the house together is limited. There is just more of a sense now that there is a season to have children, and then that season ends and you go on to other things.

    Comment by John Mansfield — May 23, 2007 @ 9:04 am

  47. John,

    Your number 45 hit a real important point.

    With fewer kids in society today it seems to take more to raise each one. Lets call it Car Seatism

    It seems like each kid these days needs music lessons, soccer camp, his own room, lots of cool clothes, cool vacations and is completely swaddled in protection 24-7 until HS then its sex, drugs, and booze often with parental consent.

    Comment by bbell — May 23, 2007 @ 10:01 am

  48. we had 10.

    we only wanted 4, but we wanted 4 good ones.

    Comment by garry — May 23, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  49. In some states, the law requires the child to be in a car seat until age 8!

    Comment by Seth R. — May 23, 2007 @ 11:45 am

  50. Commenter 23 responds to Commenter 30

    In comment 23, I explained that low birth rates in the western world and east asia threatened society. I stated that women and men who have large families were “saving the world.”

    Comment 30 argued argued I was “overstating the dire risks of the world population.” She also implied that my position was immoderate.

    Here’s my response: I’m not worried about the world’s population. I’m very worried about sinking population in Europe, the US, and East Asia–the “Developed” world. In Europe and Japan in particular, fertility rates are terrifyingly low. For instance, in Spain and Italy, the average woman has only a single child. Meanwhile, African women have many, many children.

    “The UN projects the population of developing countries will rise from 5.4 billion today to 7.9 billion in 2050. In that time, the number of people in the developed world will remain largely unchanged, at 1.2 billion. Pop­ulations of Europe, Japan, and Russia will actually decline.”


    If my comments seem extreme, that’s because the situation is extreme. There are a few anomalies like France, but for the most part, population rates in the developed world have dropped steadily for a very long time, with no turnaround in sight. The average woman in Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Russia, and many other nations has only a single child.

    As a result, developed nations will be forced to divert nearly all their tax dollars provided by the small pool of workers to the support of senior citizens–greatly impeding scientific and humanitarian advancement, as well as foreign aid to the burgeoning developing world. Progress will slow or cease in many nations.

    And that’s why people who have large families (at least in Western Countries) are saving the world.

    In the United States, the situation is dire, but not as potentially catastrophic as in the rest of the developed world. Like other nations, the US will struggle to support its senior citizens, as well as an immigrant population that will consume many more resources than it provides. http://www.heritage.org/research/immigration/SR14es.cfm

    Still, the average native born American has almost 2 children, in large part because larger families like commenter 30′s offset the many people who do not have children. So, the US may be able to carry on with the work of advancing scientific and humanitarian progress, provided enough of us have large families.

    So, Commenter 30, bless you for your 4 children.

    Comment by Random Guy — May 23, 2007 @ 11:55 am

  51. Yeah, I know what you mean, Garry. It takes having 10 overall in order to get 4 good ones.

    Comment by John Mansfield — May 23, 2007 @ 12:01 pm

  52. My friend who has eight kids said the nastiest comments she receives are when she’s in Utah. Go figure.
    I completely agree that it’s a ridiculous notion to equate number of children with personal righteousness/unselfishness. Aren’t we over that yet? Rarely do women share the trauma of infertility, pregnancy hell, labor complications beyond their closest intimates (of course there are always exceptions). Childbearing is not risk-free. Let’s give women a little more credit for having any children at all :)
    As for taking complete financial responsibility for personal decisions, hats off to all that do. I find it repugnant that so many are willing to hoist the financial burden on others or the government. I know that this is an extremely common practice, but I don’t think that makes it any more palatable. What is wrong about admitting that one doesn’t have the financial resources to pay for hospital bills and all other health care? Basic foodstuffs for your young children? Whether you’re in professional school or any other training shouldn’t mean that you’re entitled to special privileges.
    I’m sorry, I know I’m ranting. I feel very strongly about this issue because I think that it is an absolutely abused system. I’ve seen it firsthand and I feel the attitude is becoming more prevalent.
    Certainly, have children. Hopefully, you can have as many as you desire. But, is accepting basic responsibility for healthcare, food, clothing and shelter really too much to ask?

    Comment by Lupita — May 23, 2007 @ 12:08 pm

  53. Garry, That’s hilarious!!!! I guess we should have had more! – huh Rusty (the only kid who doesn’t call his dad on his birthday)

    Comment by Don Clifton — May 23, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  54. muchas gracias,

    i feels good to be appreciated.

    Comment by garry — May 23, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

  55. Gary,
    Ya know, I wonder if God feels the same way.

    Comment by Bret — May 23, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

  56. Car seats is a good shorthad for this problem. We love our children so much that we swathe them in care so elaborate that it can only be bestowed on a few children before our capacity to bestow it is depleted.

    The issue of car seats is an important one. I have a Pathfinder which is a fairly large SUV. Add in the car seats though and there’s not a whole heck of a lot of room. How exactly people with four young kids manage to fit them into a car is never clear. Presumably they have to get a mini-van. But that’s not cheap itself.

    The logistics of this really are interesting. I’m planning on four kids and I’m flummoxed at how we’ll manage it, to be frank. My wife wants a larger car, but looking at the price…

    My friend who has eight kids said the nastiest comments she receives are when she’s in Utah. Go figure.

    Utah is unfortunately very polarized. So there are some who are absolutely rabidly angry at how Mormons live their life relative to kids (and even some Mormons who don’t like it) They see one family having six kids as extremely selfish.

    The folks who speak up are a small minority, just as the number of Mormons who bash non-Mormons are a small minority. But given the tensions in the state, those are the folks who get “noticed” the most.

    Comment by clark — May 23, 2007 @ 9:57 pm

  57. bbell,
    FWIW, there are very few non-SAHMs in my Utah ward, and I think it’s similar in other wards around me and in my family’s wards up north near your sister’s. I would say that numbers of working-for-pay moms are probably increasing but not as extremely as you have been told.

    Comment by m&m — May 23, 2007 @ 10:56 pm

  58. p.s. I’m likely doing a post on this at BoJ in June, so I’m holding back here on some of my thoughts and some references that might be interesting to some (e.g., a talk by Elder Oaks to CES young adults including this topic).

    Comment by m&m — May 23, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

  59. Really, does it matter? Is there some magic number of kids all good members should shoot for? Are you actually concerned with the size of other peoples families? And…should you be?

    When I was about to get married I dragged my husband to marriage prep classes taught by one of the new religion professors and his wife. In the first class, they whipped out 35 year old quotes I had NEVER heard in my entire life in the church about not limiting family size and how I shouldn’t use birth control. I almost called off my marriage and considered leaving the church. Until I realized that was advice given to my parents and not to me. As someone said earlier, that is not taught now. And thank God for that.

    I have to echo the comments of someone earlier who mentioned that it seems a little silly to preach self-sufficiency and independence and financial security and preparedness and all that and than say that living off loans and having children on medicaid and feeding them off food stamps is a good thing. Its totally contradictory and it bugs me that this isn’t just seen as acceptable, but somehow good. And I hate when people give you these hypothetical scenarios of how it could work without loans or welfare. I’m doing something wrong for waiting to have kids until I have health insurance and, you know, income…and my SIL is doing something right by quitting her job and moving in with her parents so she can be a SAHM? Its madness, and the quicker U.S. Mormons realize that the better.

    Suggesting that quantity of kids is somehow superior to the quality of parenting (as some have suggested by saying we not limit number of children so as to be able to be better parents) is even crazier.

    The fact is, in America, health care and housing costs make starting a family an entirely different proposition that it was in the seventies when our parents were doing it. And as a side note – here in Washington you have to use a car/booster seat until the kids are over 60 pounds or are 6 years old. So, when deciding on whether to have more kids or not, whether you can fit them in your car really is a consideration, which is also really crazy.

    Comment by veritas — May 24, 2007 @ 12:28 am

  60. Here’s what we need to do: The church can sponsor some crash safety tests to investigate the effect of stuffing the back seat with a half dozen children. If it can be shown that the cushioning provided by all those little bodies crammed together works as well as car seats do, then there will be a basis for approaching state legislatures to provide an exemption to car seat laws when the kids are squished together.

    Or we can engineer a new style of car seat, something like a roller coaster restraint bar, that works no matter how many children it’s holding.

    Comment by John Mansfield — May 24, 2007 @ 5:03 am

  61. “Debt can be a terrible thing. It is so easy to incur and so difficult to repay. I hasten to add that borrowing under some circumstances is necessary. Perhaps you need to borrow to complete your education. If youdo, see that you pay it back. And do so promptly even at the sacrifice of some comforts that you might otherwise enjoy. You likely will have to borrow in securing a home. But be wise and do not go beyond your abliity to pay. Borrowed money is had only at a price, and that price can be burdensome.” –President Gordon B. Hinckley


    And I hate when people give you these hypothetical scenarios of how it could work without loans or welfare.

    Even the Prophet has said that borrowing money can be a good thing. I’m living the hypothetical. Call me crazy or stupid or delusional, but I am.

    I’m doing something wrong for waiting to have kids until I have health insurance and, you know, income…and my SIL is doing something right by quitting her job and moving in with her parents so she can be a SAHM?

    Those are two extremes. Please make room for those that are in the middle.

    I just hate being judged because I’ve chosen to have children (and many children) at a young age. I’m sure your SIL hates being judged by a family member for doing something she thinks is right. Just as you hate being judged for putting children off for reasons you think are right.

    Comment by Cheryl — May 24, 2007 @ 8:16 am

  62. Wow, this post has added to my already panic-fraught problem. :)

    Comment by SilverRain — May 24, 2007 @ 9:07 am

  63. It’s interesting that I would stumble upon this topic. I am expecting #4 and have been going through the “are we done” talks with my DH. I don’t know what the answer is. Right now, yesterday it was YES WE ARE DONE. Simply because I want to do the best that I can with who I have and I’m afraid that I can’t do that if I keep adding. However, who knows what the years will hold. I just can’t help but think that there are some women and men who can handle many sweet spirits in their homes- I mean that in the mental sense more than in the monetary sense. My DH came from a family of 9. His mother is SO patient!! Seriously, she is patient with children, money, budget, lack of personal time, lack of alone time with DH, she is simply PATIENT! I am not in that catagory yet. When I see large families I am simply happy that there are women who can handle that. And I’ll leave it between me, my DH and the Lord to decide what we can handle.

    Comment by kanga — May 24, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  64. I wonder if the Brethren consider “entrepreneurship” a valid reason for going into debt.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 24, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  65. Rusty,

    Actually my parents had 5. They were the biggest family of that generation to stay in Brooklyn (in what most people would probably consider a way too small house– 1800 sq ft on 3 floors). Back when I was a kid, though, there did seem to be a lot more families who had 3-4 kids before leaving for the suburbs or elsewhere. I do think what constitutes a bare minimum has changed. My parents didn’t buy ice cream while in graduate school, for example. As a young mom w/ 3 kids I struggle with guilt about my materialism all the time, while wondering how the other families our age seem to have so much nicer things.

    Comment by Maryanne N. — May 24, 2007 @ 5:00 pm

  66. Housing costs are a serious issue. I live in the east coast, near DC, and our 3 bedroom apt rent (1600 sq feet)is $2,100+ a month. We tried to buy here, but anything that would fit our modest family was $500k and up (3 bedroom).

    In regards to the propensity of some young Mormon families to rely on the gov’t while they have kids in grad school: I understand the frustration as expressed in #52 and #59. While I was in law school, my wife wanted to have a child, and we both felt it was right. During the prenatal, i was insistent on paying our own way…which we did. During labor and post-labor, my wife had some serious complications, and our little student insurance covered hardly any of it. There was no way to pay for it. So, we got Medicaid to supplement the rest.

    And, IRT to #52 and #59, as much as the gov’t may have helped me back then, i can guarantee you that i have paid back all of what they ever gave me…and much more…in taxes. And, having the child during the time when i wasn’t a slave to the fluorescent light gods of law was the best decision we ever made. I got to know my children…

    Comment by Chris — May 25, 2007 @ 6:13 am

  67. I think there is a subtle societal trend at work here( I have four kids, a “possible” fifth on the way.).

    I remember working as a cashier at a grocery store about 10 years ago. A family from my ward who had seven kids came through. They had three carts overflowing with groceries. I wasn’t well acquainted with them, but they seemed nice. As another cashier rang them out, the kids were fairly well behaved and both the mom and dad seemed pretty relaxed. Upon their exit from the store, two other cashiers started to criticize and mock this nice family, like they were abnormal.

    We get strange looks from people when we say we’re not done having children, like they may need to call CPS or Planned Parenthood. Heaven forbid if my poor kids have to share a bedroom or go without a jetski. I think larger families get the looks now that a gay couple would have receieved in public during the 1950′s. Talk about values inversion.

    Comment by Fregramis — May 25, 2007 @ 6:37 am

  68. I agree with much of what has been said. And honestly, how many people WANT to have more than threeish? Parenting is rewarding, but it’s also hard. Forget the financial cost – I just don’t think I could be a good parent to more than the three I already have. I’m not talking about music lessons and ballet, I’m talking about having enough patience to get through the day without losing my mind.

    My mother had 9. She didn’t want to have 9, but she had always been taught that she shouldn’t use birth control, and that she was supposed to have as many as she could handle. So she did, and she wasn’t happy about it. She felt she had to though. I’m glad those kinds of decisions aren’t as common anymore. She got through it, and we did too, but benign neglect was pretty common back then. Even neglect neglect was common and not all that unusual. Whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, that is no longer what good parenting looks like in our culture.

    There are probably many people who have the ability to be good parents to four or five or six or seven or more children – I’m just not one of them, and from talking to most of my friends – they aren’t either. Not feeling any religious pressure to have more than I can personally handle just makes it that much more logical a decision, and I think that is what you see reflected in the numbers.

    I also refuse to bring a crowd of kids into the world only to let the older kids raise the younger ones because I’m too busy. Been there, done that, helped my little brother put on the t-shirt. No way.

    Comment by Sue — May 25, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

  69. By the way….

    I am hearing from people in Utah that are moving here that with the rising housing prices the SAHM large family model is falling out of favor and getting less common in Utah.

    One sister told me that she was the only SAHM in her entire Bountiful ward.

    Can anybody confirm?

    This must not be Davis County, Utah. My wife works part time and still gets shocked looks from some of the SAHM’s who ask how she can stand to leave her children. Just in my cul-de-sac there are three SAHM out of 6 families.

    I had a vasectomy last year after our second. For usthe decision was easy, and only took three main reason, some of which have been kinda mentioned.

    1. I grew up in a family with five kids. Both of my parents had to work just to keep our heads above water, yes we had hand-me-downs, no vacations, not even a television. They had very little time for us, which I probably noticed the most being the oldest (the three youngest tell me they never noticed this). My dad actually says they wish they’d stopped at three so they could work less and concentrate on just spending time with us. I refuse to do this. I like the fact I can spend hours a day with each of my children. We’re very close and I would never give it up. It’s not so I can have a big screen tv or a huge SUV, it’s so I can spend time with my family instead of working my fingers to the bone.

    2. The second pregancy was hard, scarily so at times. There was more than one time we were convinced my wife was going to lose the baby, and at one time I thought I was going to lose my wife. Too many health issues, I refuse to go through that again, or let me wife go through it either (she totally agrees).

    3. God said it was ok to quit at two.

    Comment by jjohnsen — May 25, 2007 @ 7:42 pm

  70. I wouldn’t mind more than three. More importantly, neither would my wife (so you know, my profile is outdated, there was an addition to the family last November and we now have 3 kids).

    Comment by Seth R. — May 25, 2007 @ 11:58 pm

  71. I’m surprised that no-one has brought up the “doctrinal” reasons for having as many children as possible. In the ’60s and ’70s I clearly remember Church leaders listing a few rationales for forbidding birth control and for having large families. These reasons included, but were not limited to, the idea that there were multitudes of spirit children waiting to be born and if not to LDS families, they’d be born to heathens; birth control was similar in nature to abortion; birth control or other means of family planning went against one’s temple covenants.

    As recently as the mid-1990s, at least one General Conference talk (Elder Washburn’s) reiterated that limiting one’s family by using birth control was contrary to covenants made in the temple.

    Comment by Josie — May 26, 2007 @ 7:22 am

  72. Josie, do you have a link for that? I may be doing something wrong but I can’t find any conference talks by anyone named Washburn.

    Comment by Julie M. Smith — May 26, 2007 @ 6:06 pm

  73. That talk was edited when it was published in the Ensign–in conference, he made reference to protecting life “from the moment of conception” and that wording disappeared in the print version.

    Comment by Kristine — May 26, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  74. Julie, that’s weird–I can’t find it either, but I do remember it distinctly. Maybe if Sunday School gets boring tomorrow I’ll go hang out in the ward library and thumb through old Conference Reports.

    Comment by Kristine — May 26, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

  75. i live not far from susan m. we are in our late 20′s, he works, i stay home, and we have three kids. i have a bs, i was 22 when we married, and he was 24. we don’t yet feel that we are done having children. we get LOADS of comments from people in our ward, where most families are dual-income and many have finished families our size or smaller. a common comment is, “y’all should move to utah or idaho. you’d fit in better there.” ouch. we definitely feel like the odds one out because of our age, because i stay home, because of the number of kids we have, and the spacing of their ages.

    we don’t yet own a home. we pay $2000 a month to RENT less than 700sf. we were really caught up in that for a while till we realized “it’s just money” and despite living in smaller quarters than most, we had sufficient for our need. and honestly, it’s kind of fun/refreshing. our last home was over 2000sf and we moved into it with only one child! anyway, the husband is in law enforcement, so it’s not like we have a lot of money to go around, but we don’t feel like we struggle too much. sure, we don’t take trips around the world and we don’t drive fancy cars, but we’re able to take the kids to see a movie or catch a nice meal out and we take smaller vacations often. most of our peers range from being amused by our lifestyle to being disgusted with it. times have definitely changed.

    our van (gasp! i am in my 20′s and drive a MINIVAN!) currently has four carseats in it (one for each of our kids and an extra for our niece or friends’ kids) and we’re maxed out (we can only fit two carseats in the back). i can’t get into the back at all because of the seats and we haven’t much space for groceries or the likes (the double jogger and car emergency kits take up the space in the rear). until we can buy something bigger, we’re stuck at no more than four kids. and i like parentheses.

    cheryl, i didn’t realize you were my age… guess i’d assumed you were older! where in ca are you again? up north? i think you might be my long lost twin, based on your comments.

    Comment by makakona — May 26, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

  76. I remember when my mom and her sister both took all us kids on a road trip to Washington to visit my grandfather. Both husbands stayed home to make money. I’m the oldest of six children, and my aunt’s family also has six.

    You should have seen the looks on the Oregon McDonald’s employee’s faces when both our vans pulled up and unloaded on the unsuspecting restaurant.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 27, 2007 @ 4:17 am

  77. Elder Ballard spoke in April 1995. (It is easy to find talks by speaker at scriptures.byu.edu as long as the speaker cited at least one scripture in their talk.) The talk was about making and keeping temple covenants. The only paragraph relevant to this post I could find was this:

    Thirty-five years ago when I first started practicing medicine, it was a rare thing for a married woman to seek advice about how she could keep from having babies. When I finished practicing medicine, it was a rare thing, except for some faithful Latter-day Saint women, for a married woman to want to have more than one or two children, and some did not want any children. We in the Church must not be caught up in the false doctrines of the world that would cause us to break sacred temple covenants.

    Comment by Bradley Ross — May 27, 2007 @ 7:43 am

  78. The talk was by Elder J. Ballard Washburn, and the Conference version DID state that preventing the birth of kids was contrary to temple covenants. I think you are quoting a watered down, selectively edited version.

    Comment by Jaqui — May 27, 2007 @ 8:52 am

  79. Bradley, could you quote the paragraph directly preceding the one you mention here? The one which directly states that BC is against temple covenants?

    Comment by martha — May 27, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  80. I have no idea why that talk didn’t come up when I searched the magazines looking for Washburn as speaker. Anyway, thanks for the link. I’m not sure what Elder Washburn intended as I can imagine two readings of his words:

    (1) preventing the birth of any children is contrary to temple covenants, therefore LDS couples should have as many children as possible

    (2) preventing the birth of any children is contrary to temple covenants, therefore LDS couples should have some children

    In any case, this is something of an academic exercise since 70s don’t establish doctrine in isolated conference talks. We can turn to the GHI and True to the Faith and find out that the decision of how many children to have is between the husband, the wife, and the Lord. I sometimes get a little frightened when I read blog comments by people who sound like either (1) lifestyle considerations or (2) a raw pro-natalist position is determining their childbearing instead of close consultation with the Lord. But I’ll assume that something is lost in translation.

    Comment by Julie M. Smith — May 27, 2007 @ 9:13 am

  81. I think he was reiterating doctrine, not establishing it.

    Comment by martha — May 27, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  82. The “more righteous if you have more children” attitude is a spinoff of the mainstream Christian “quiverfill” mentality – where since children are blessings of the Lord, the more you have, the more you are loved by the Lord.
    What I find really annoying is the attitude I sense from the original poster and others of that generation that if those of the next generation are not building familes just like they did – it MUST be selfishness. It MUST be because we are the “me” generation.
    No one – absolutely no one – not a GA, not a bishop, not a neighbor, family member or friend has any right to assume or make judgement on a couples (or generations) choices in childbearing. Period.

    Comment by DolphinDragon — May 27, 2007 @ 8:04 pm

  83. The GAs have just as much right to opine about birth control as on any other topic. I have active friends in their 30s and 40s who have never married or divorced who also think the Church should butt out of their personal sex lives. And they are also grateful for birth control.

    Comment by elain — May 28, 2007 @ 10:47 am

  84. Actually Dolphin,

    If you really know the couple in question really well, you may actually have quite good basis for judging them. It’s a big if, but it does happen.

    I don’t personally know anyone well enough to judge on that. But some people do…

    Comment by Seth R. — May 28, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  85. makakona-
    Hey, sorry for not commenting earlier –we’ve been out of town. With our four kids, in a mini-van, with a luggage shell, CAMPING for four days! (hope that gets a gasp out of someone. :)) Can I just say that camping is the greatest thing ever? I believe it truly is…

    I’m in the Bay Area, yes. We just moved here, though, from Provo…I’m assuming you’re down south? Email me! cssavage at gmail dot com…

    I don’t think Don was making a nasty judgement –I think he really was concerned and interested as to why this generation of LDS couples are having less children (and regardless of how anyone spins it, they are.)
    Don, would I be correct in that assumption…?

    Comment by Cheryl — May 28, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

  86. I find it interesting that some people seem to assume that if you have a large family you either don’t use birth control, and/or you are blindly following the brethren. When we were first married my husband and I talked about having four childern. We have eight children. My husband and I prayerfully considered each baby, using BC in between each one. Each child was/is wanted and loved. It has not always been easy, but is the right thing for us.

    From reading the comments here is seems that many would think that I’m not able to give enough attention to each child. And it is true that two would get more individual attention from ME than eight do.
    But if you could see how much my small kids love their big siblings, how they jump up and down with excitement when the big ones come home from school. And how the big kids love their little siblings, how they let them have ‘sleepovers’ in their rooms, how they read stories and play with them, and take pictures of them and laugh with them! (Today my oldest, who is home from college for the summer, is going on a fieldtrip with her kindergarten brother!) There is lots of love between them, and I think that more then makes up for having eight children sharing my attention.

    Comment by Karen — May 29, 2007 @ 7:59 am

  87. My husband and I have none yet, but we’re planning on around four. When we’re feeling optimistic, we consider six. Admittedly, I want a lot of unnecessary things for my children–music and foreign language lessons, for instance–and that makes having a lot of kids seem impractical. (I’m trying to tone down my plans for my as-yet nonexistent children so that I’m not going to cause them emotional breakdowns by age six.) In addition, I recently discovered that I have a genetic problem that will make pregnancy less pleasant. Not a big deal, but still a deterrant.

    For me, though, the biggest reason we probably won’t have a big family is that I don’t feel like I’ll be able to be a good mother to more than four or so. And I don’t mean we won’t be able to give them Chinese lessons. I want my kids to be able to have the kind of childhood I did, where Mommy reads stories, teaches the kids to read, to cook, to clean, listens to how everyone’s day went, attends everyone’s performances/sports meets, and just generally makes everyone feel loved and supported. My mom was able to do this for eight children. I don’t think I can.

    Comment by brozy — May 31, 2007 @ 4:57 pm

  88. brozy-
    You won’t know until you try. Or at least until you have a child or two. Don’t limit yourself before you know what you can handle. I have found that I can handle whatever it is I need to handle at the time. Sometimes I wonder I can even get through the day, but then I do, and most of the time it ends just fine. And my children are happy. We can all do whatever it is we have to do. Providing a wonderful environment that you described can very well be the “have”. The trick is to not limit our potential just because we afraid we might not live up to it.

    Comment by Cheryl — May 31, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

  89. Sorry. That should read “just because we are afraid we might not live up to it”

    Comment by Cheryl — May 31, 2007 @ 6:12 pm

  90. Of course Cheryl, the flip side is that if you have more than you can handle, it’s too late. It isn’t a contest. I think there are very few people who can successfully handle a large number of children. My parents couldn’t. Most of the kids I knew/know who were also from large families were similarly neglected and the older kids were forced to take on way too much responsibility for a kid. I know parents often say the older children love doing it, and maybe sometimes that’s true, but I think that often it’s a copout to ease parental guilt. They don’t like to accept that they are making their older children slaves to their own desires. And of course sometimes they really are great parents who can successfully parent a large family.

    The key is, I think, that people don’t feel spiritually COMPELLED to take on more children than they can parent in a loving way, so they don’t do it.

    Comment by Sue — June 3, 2007 @ 7:36 pm

  91. FYI,

    I just heard on the news that they’ve developed a test whereby both men and women can find out how “fertile” they are. A real concern for aging couples who want to have kids. Now you can actually get a sense of how likely childbirth is for you without just sitting around with vague anxiety that “your biological clock is ticking down.”

    About time says I.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 4, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

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