Mormon Family Shrinkage

Christopher BigelowMormon 57 Comments

I’m the oldest of ten kids. I spent my teen years (1979–1986) living across the street in Bountiful, Utah, from a family with eleven kids. Two of my aunts and uncles have nine and ten kids, respectively.

Even after living through it myself, I still can’t imagine how this was done! How could these super-parents keep going through all those pregnancies and babies and all those expenses, not to mention the drain on their personal time and energy? You just don’t see families that big anymore, even in Mormonism. For my Generation X and perhaps many younger Baby Boomers too, a gigantic family is six or seven kids as opposed to ten or eleven, while most of us just have three or four kids, maybe slightly more than the secular average but not by much.

I’m trying to think of reasons for this decline, and I’d love to hear your rebuttals and/or expansions. Here are mine in no particular order, some obvious but others stretching:

• Today’s car-seat and booster-seat regulations are so draconian, as opposed to my childhood when toddlers and older just rattled around loose in the back of the Ford Country Squire.

• Schoolteachers today generally assign more homework and expect more parent involvement, so you can’t keep up with as many kids academically any more. Same with extracurricular activities.

• Because of today’s safety concerns (whether real or media-hyped), we keep much closer track of our kids, which makes it less practical to have so many.

• Maybe we’re generally more selfish, hedonistic, and materialistic than earlier generations, perhaps even in ways we’re not fully aware of. Of course, this means less resources sacrified for having kids and more moms working outside the home. (I don’t buy the idea that wages have lagged behind inflation so badly that we can’t have as many kids; I think it’s our inflated expectations that wages haven’t kept up with).

• Birth control is less frowned upon within Mormonism nowadays. I’m amazed by how many rather orthodox, conservative Mormon men of my generation have gotten vasectomies. (I got one too at age 39, and I quite love being free of fertility baggage.)

• While Saturday’s Warrior affirmed the ethics of our parents’ generation, perhaps it worked some powerful reverse-psychology mojo on us kids who were young then and are procreating now.

• I think today’s overwhelming media choices, electronic gadgetry, and other worldly distractions are stretching our attention spans so thin that our plates feel fuller without as many children as our parents’ generation could accommodate. For them, perhaps life was simpler and they didn’t feel pulled in as many different directions, thus leaving more time and energy for offspring.

• Perhaps the spirits who are coming to us these days are generally more challenging, difficult personalities, full of unusual energy and potential that takes more parental energy to shape and channel. Or maybe kids are just harder to handle these days because they’re overpampered and overstimulated and/or because deep down they crave more attention because they can sense that their parents are too preoccupied with other things.

Additionally, I find myself asking sometimes-contradictory questions about the implications of our lowered birth rates, including some questions in Mormon magical thinking mode:

• In the afterlife, will we become reacquainted with souls who would have been in our family if we had not stopped having kids?

• Are we doing a better job of parenting with fewer kids, helping them become stronger to withstand the sure-to-increase stresses and temptations of the latter days?

• Will our civilization reach a point where families with large numbers of children couldn’t survive under future privations, so our Mormon culture is being inspired to start cutting back now in preparation for coming hard times?

• Will divine blessings and protections be reduced for those of us who choose to sacrifice less in the area of having kids and perhaps even for our culture as a whole because so many of us are making that choice?

• Will we somehow delay the Second Coming because of the backlog of spirits who are supposed to be born before the Millennium starts?

So, does any of this trigger some response or ideas? Will the pendulum ever swing back the other way to having more kids, or will we continue sticking close to worldly trends? And why did my three-year-old color in all his fingernails with a permanent black Sharpie tonight?

Comments 57

  1. I am a 29 year old father of 3. Two of my children were born during medical school in Maryland. When we went out as a family we were often informed that we have our hands full. Everytime we have had another child we are asked over and over when we are going to stop. We are down in Georgia doing a medical residency and large families ( as my small clan of 5 has been called) aren’t as freakish to locals as in the DC area, but I am still asked by colleague if we dare have more children. What I don’t get is how out spoken people can be about encouraging us not to have anymore kids. I think most people would find it offensive if I told them to have more kids, but they don’t seem to mind telling me I should stop. Its not like my kids are neglected, under-fed cretins (as far as I can tell).
    Our generation wants the wealth our parent’s generation enjoys now, instead of 30+ years into a career, where most of our parents are now. I think this focus on early success limits family size because kids are demanding and expensive and people don’t want to be bothered. People prefer pets these days to children. How many people have responded to the question of whether they have children with, “yes, my cat fluffy is sooo demanding.”

  2. Very interesting. I guess I’ve always assumed it’s because we are just more selfish, but some of your cultural reasons (such as increased sensitivity to safety concerns) ring true to me. I have 2 and it seams like a real struggle to keep up with them. I can’t imagine having 10, although granted they wouldn’t all be as young as my 2 are now.

    I’d add one more reason to your list, though, and that is an increased awareness of the importance of women’s happiness (which is a long, but less-politically charged way to say “Women’s Liberation”). I know a few families in my ward that hold to the view that God wants them to keep having children as fast and as many as physcally possible. Some of them are happy to do it, but others are miserable and overwhelmed. I disagree with this view, but I think it was more accepted in the past. I wonder, then, if some of the parents (or, should I say, mothers, since in the past fathers weren’t expected to play as much of a role in the day-to-day upbringing) that were having 10 kids in previous generations were also miserable and overwhelmed, but felt that was their lot in life and they couldn’t complain.

    Another way to say what I’m trying to say is this: You mentioned selfishness/materialism as one of the reasons we might have less children. I think this is true, but I also think that some degree of selfishness might not be a bad thing. Is it bad to limit the number of children for our own geniune happiness (I mean not just materialist happiness, but real satisfaction with life)? The answer in the past might have been “Yes”, but I think it’s increasingly becoming, “No”, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    But maybe I’m wrong and all of those mothers with 10 kids were just beaming with joy as they hand-washed clothes and slaved over hot stoves for hours with kids tugging at their dresses.

  3. While Saturday’s Warrior affirmed the ethics of our parents’ generation, perhaps it worked some powerful reverse-psychology mojo on us kids who were young then and are procreating now.

    Wow, that makes me think! I know I’m not a typical member of your survey sample, but in my case you may have hit on something here. I’m the oldest of 5 kids (my mom is the oldest of 10). My sister played Emily in our Stake’s production of Saturday’s Warrior (1979) and the LP was one of maybe 10 records that we owned. We listened to that album over and over. I remember as a 9 or 10 year old kid finding the argument in Zero Population — that having excess children is irresponsible given the limitation’s on earth’s food and energy capacity — to be utterly convincing. I’ve been a neo-Malthusian since childhood and who knows the extent to which Saturday’s Warrior planted that attitude?

  4. I think it is fundamentally a question of social norms changing in terms of child safety and supervision. As I discussed in fertility, mortality, as childhood death from disease and malnutrition decreases, the proportion of childhood deaths that are due to preventable accidents rises. The natural response is to have fewer kids and focus a lot more effort on keeping each one safe from harm 100% of the time.

    That said, your idea about Saturday’s Warrior working reverse psychology on today’s parents made me laugh. It reminded me of this.

  5. Chris, you make some fantastic points there. I think there are multiple reasons for the decline in family size. In Europe we are not even having enough children to replenish the population. The average birth rate is about 1.6 children per family. Children are being put off later and later. Our society is more materialistic.

    I came across this National Security Memorandum 200 written by Henry Kissinger a while ago and I couldnt help but wonder what effect this has had on the public mindset in terms of population control. The memorandum concludes that population growth around the globe is a national security threat to America and a drain on vital resources. If you want to see how easily the masses are controlled by the elites then read Chomsky’s “Propaganda: Control of the Public Mind”.

    But as MEDCs we are in Stage 4 (and arguably stage 5) of population distribution whereby the death rate and birth rates are low. The population is getting older and there are a higher number of dependants. This means the tax burden will be higher and we will have to work longer. This also means that things will comparitively be more expensive for the young adult population as the older population have more wealth to spend. And the final result is that birth rate decreases. This is the natural development of countries in the development transition model and very little can be done to combat it even as Mormons.

    I do think that young people expect more now like Ipods, Mobile phones, Nintendo Wii’s etc…rather then the sticks and rocks our grandparents played with.

    I think it is important to have the number of children that you see fit and to not worry about what other people think. We are shooting for the world record of 17! lol

  6. A fascinating list, Chris, and an interesting subject.

    I came from a family of six children, pretty average in LDS circles for the time. When I got married I kind of assumed we would have four. We had a girl and then a boy, who was a real bouncing off the walls fireball of energy, and all of a sudden neither of us could even imagine having more, and we stopped.

    Maybe it was selfish, but I don’t perceive it that way. The two we had felt like all we could handle with our emotional resources. I’m perfectly happy with the way things turned out, even though I’m a part of that worldly-leaning statistic of smaller LDS families.

  7. Kevin,

    Yes…very good point. When I said “I think it is important to have the number of children that you see fit and to not worry about what other people think.”

    I did in fact mean exactly what you have said but you have articulated it better than myself. I think it should be up to the family to decide not the government or persons outside of the family.

    There are some kids in church that I couldnt even imagine being able to handle on their own let alone 4 to 10 kids!

  8. I think the biggest reason we have fewer children is because we can. In 1970 Lorretta Lynn sang:

    You wined me and dined me
    When I was your girl
    Promised if I’d be your wife
    You’d show me the world
    But all I’ve seen of this old world
    Is a bed and a doctor bill
    I’m tearin’ down your brooder house
    ‘Cause now I’ve got the pill
    All these years I’ve stayed at home
    While you had all your fun
    And every year thats gone by
    Another babys come
    There’s a gonna be some changes made
    Right here on nursery hill
    You’ve set this chicken your last time
    ‘Cause now I’ve got the pill

    My sense is that Mormon families still exceed the national birthrate but not by too much. Raising children is hard work and stressful and Mormon or not, we gravitate toward situations that make life easier. That’s why we acquire dishwashers, washing machines, motorized vehicles, etc. And along the way we have fewer children.

  9. I too find it interesting (appalling?) how forward people, even non-mormons can be about family size. When I was pregnant with my second, before she was even born, I had total strangers tell me, “Oh you have a boy AND a girl now, you can stop!” When friends found out we were happily pregnant with our third, they were shocked, and voiced amazement that we would have another when we already had one of each (as if children= shoes or handbags).

  10. The issue of family size has been important because its an important signal historically as to whether a culture is in decline or on the advance. Modern cultural Mormonism is still advancing but at a slower pace. The trend isn’t looking good. But we’re mighty mice compared to any number of White Europeans, Russians, American Coastal Latte Liberals, etc.

    That’s always been my argument lately about the inevitability of the pendulum swing from liberalism that we’ve seen since the Enlightenment. We may be headed towards a new Dark Age. Europe will be Muslim in 50 years and be under Sharia law and for all of its cultural liberal cuisine–the party may be over. The problem with cultural liberals is that they don’t make enough children to replace themselves and you can only educate the unwashed masses so much–80% of children retain their parents political and religious identities. The Ivy Leagues and Oxford can only do so much.

    1. 1 of several

      (While ‘excusing’, still, I invite you to carefully and fully read, and also ponder, my ‘mini-dissertation’ [or sorts] below). And yes, your response is indeed solicited!

      It is 8 (almost 9) years since most of these comments were posted (before mine). I have been studying this subject since about 2008, but more generally (in regards to the world population decrease in birth rates), and especially how it affects economics.

      I could make a response to most everyone’s comment made on this thread. But I will respond to this one first.

      Peter Brown is correct in implying, IMO, that we are headed towards a Dark Ages period (much faster, I believe, than we suppose).

      Interestingly, in trying to find the reasons for worldwide economic decline, after scouring the many reasons posited for the ‘Great Depression’ (supposedly only of the 1930’s, though I suspect in many nations, it extended at least into the fifties, and maybe even longer for some countries), what I found in the reasons given that supposedly caused the Great Depression, what I would call more symptoms.

      In my research, I came to the conclusion that birth rate declines, both in the US, and elsewhere, were a far greater factor contributing, and probably causing the ‘Great Depression’ than almost anything else.

      Beginning way back in about 1910 in the US, for example, birth rates began to decline rapidly. I suspected for years that this phenomenon was possibly because of women leaving the home more to work outside the home. Earlier this year, I finally found a chart that confirmed my suspicion.

      Also, I believe in the US, it was the so-called ‘Baby Boom’ (the somewhat dramatic rise in birth rates between 1946 to about 1964) was likely the big reason (really) that lifted the US out of economic depression. (WWII seemed to, because the US Government was going into debt, and manufacturing for war purposes grew greatly. But death and material devastation hardly seem to be a long term cure for worldwide economic depression, given the world war we had).

      Actually, the ‘Baby Boom’ (which I say is a “so-called” one), had a lower birth rate, by some bit, compared to the ‘most recent’ “normal (higher) birthrate” of say, 1900-1910. However, you’ve never heard of the ‘Baby Boom’ of 1900-1910, because those rates were actually lower than previous decades had been (though, again, they were still appreciably higher than the birthrates from 1946-1964).

      The post WWII ‘Baby Boom’ I compare to a long skinny pig inside a much longer, and much skinnier python. Where the pig is inside the python appears “so fat”, not because it necessarily is. But because relative to the skinniness of the python, it appears to be so. It is a case of where the “books” are more described or compared to the “book ends”. The period BEFORE the “Baby Boom”, and the period largely SINCE (AFTER) the “Baby Boom” are the “book ends”, and the ‘boom’ is the “books”. The books are made to look much booker in COMPARISON to the ‘book ends’.

      1. 2 of several

        Although I’ve been studying the economic situation since 2007 or 2008, it was just in September of last year (2015) that I learned that the US last had a ‘surplus’ birth rate (and barely, at that) in 1970. I was a sophomore in high school back then! We’ve officially been in a ‘birth dearth’ (having babies at a sub-replacement rate), clear since 1971!

        But, also, in the (LDS) Church, by my best calculations, we have been having babies at a sub-replacement rate (NOT enough to even replace the generation giving birth to them) since about 1990!

        In recent decades, the highest birth rate in the Church appears to be about 1982. Our 2nd oldest child (our oldest daughter) was born then. For a number of years (depending upon the statistic), the Church was rounding numbers it gave. In 1982, the number of ‘Children of Record’ was 124,000 (as reported during April Conference, 1983). And, in 1982, LDS Church membership first went above 5 million members!

        In April General Conference of 2009 (reporting statistics of the Church for 2008), the statistic name was changed, and the way it was figured, for the number given for 2008. In a single year, the number of ‘Children of Record’ jumped by nearly 30,000! And the label on the statistic was changed too, to ‘New Children of Record’. The older ‘Children of Record’ represented the number of newborns named and blessed (while we don’t do infant baptisms, of course, we still count babies named and blessed as ‘members’). But under the old label, the formula was, take the number of (mostly) newborns named & blessed in Church, add them; and then, subtract those children who had been ‘named & blessed’ nine years prior, but who had not been baptized by the time they reached age nine, and subtract that number.

        Now, the number ‘New Children or Record’ is merely the number of (mostly) newborns ‘named & blessed’ into the Church. A fellow in the Church membership department who explained all this to me, over the phone, told me that consistently over the years, the percentage of those babies ‘named & blessed’ has remained at about 70% of babies born to members of the Church.

        Also, when I asked this ‘brother’ why they changed the statistic (I was clued it had been changed, and called his department, because of the nearly 30,000 higher number, and by the change of the label for it), and the name for it, he said, “Because more and more people were complaining about how low the number [‘Children of Record’] was getting)! LOL! Sadly, when things inside the window are looking worse, most everyone, including the Church, apparently, enhances the ‘window dressing’!

        So, though maybe our birth rate numbers in Utah, and perhaps in a few places in the Church are ‘above’ exact replacement (but again, as Peter Brown above pointed out, even though Utah birthrates, because of the larger LDS population in Utah is higher than in the rest of the nation, it is so ‘not by much’). Currently, the US’s birthrate is about 1.86 TFI (Total Fertility Rate = a rate estimated how many children each woman will have, on average, given the current birthrate). In 2007, we were at 2.09. But, apparently, even the “illegal aliens” (mostly Mexicans and those from Central America) are not having as many as they were when having an “anchor baby” (as a US citizen) seemed more important (before Obama’s opening of the illegal immigration floodgates)!

        1. 3 of several

          In the (LDS) Church, for the last three years, Church membership has exceeded 15 million members worldwide. But last year (2015), for instance, the number of ‘New Children of Record’ was a mere 114,550 (again, the number of mostly newborns ‘named & blessed’ into the Church).

          However, if our birthrate last year had been as high as it was, proportionately in 1982, instead of a ‘lousy’ 114,550 (which again, is approaching 10,000 less number of babies than the 124,000 babies ‘named & blessed’ then), the number of ‘New Children of Record’ in 2015 would have been about 496,000—or just shy of 1/2 million!!! This indicates that for every 5 babies born per whatever number of members of the Church in 1982, there was ever so slightly more than 1 baby born, on average, in 2015. That is almost a 5 to 1 ratio. Or a 1 to 5 ratio. Meaning, LDS birthrates, in about a generation, have dwindled (remember that oft used Book of Mormon word?) just shy of 80% in a single generation!!! (78%, to be more precise). As a Church, we haven’t been ‘fertile’ (or, if you will, as a whole (Church) been really keeping the first commandment given by God to man (and, for those of you who have been), we PERSONALLY covenant to do in the Lord’s House! (Of course, I never blame those who try, but can’t—but I’m sure God will those who can, but don’t)!

          I am mindful of those who try, but don’t succeed. I have a daughter, married 8 years now, who is “there”. And, remember, three of the four (or more?) women we believe or suppose are Gods, namely, Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel, all had GREAT difficulty in having children. (Rachel, in fact, dying right after her 2nd son, Benjamin, was born). She may have (possibly) been in her 50’s (or older?) when she first gave birth to Joseph!

          I find it interesting how lacksidaisical, and how prone we are to succumb to the ways of the world, in this regard.

          I was the 6th of 8 children, and have long appreciated those who went the extra mile, to make ME “possible” (even likely)! My wife, was the ‘Joseph’ in her father’s family. She was his 11th child, out of 12 he had (by two wives, to be sure). His 2nd wife (my mother-in-law), who only passed last year (at age 95) didn’t marry until age 28; gave birth to her first child at age 29 (I was born when my mother was 29, and I was her 6th child, like my maternal grandfather was). My parents were both the oldest of five children in their parents’ respective families. My paternal grandfather, was the 9th of 9 children; his wife, my grandmother, the 13th of 13 children (her mother giving her life, within less than a year after she was born, due to the effects of childbirth)!

          My maternal grandmother was the first of four children, but was conceived out of marriage (her mother was a member of the household staff, when the oldest child & son of nine children impregnated her (fortunately, they married, and had 3 more children). But today, she (my maternal grandmother) would have become merely an abortion statistic. Thankfully, she didn’t.

          I find it interesting that in two ‘more righteous’ periods in the Book of Mormon, including after the nearly complete annhilation of Nephites & Lamanites after the death of Christ, it is mentioned in 4th Nephi how the population rebound, as the people increased exceedingly!

          1. 4 of several

            Back around 1800, according to the US Census taken that year, women were giving birth to children around then that indicated an average number of children born per woman of about 9! Over the 19th century (1800’s), that gradually declined. One of my great-great grandfathers, Feramorz Little (a nephew of Brigham Young), when sent back East with his younger brother by Uncle Brigham, wrote back home that the countryside had become like the cities only had been before—birthrates had declined a lot. Only in upstate New York he wrote about parents who “still believe in children” who had seven daughters.

            I believe, myself, the major contributor to sub-replacement birthrates is women being told to, and then going to school (college/university) for careers outside the home. Maslow’s false “self-actualization”
            ajchievement in his very selfish and self-centered “hierarchy of needs” that even I was OD’d on in College in the 1970’s, has had and is having its’ “sway”. And, by heeding the voices and temptations of the world, I believe we are eschewing Nephi’s counsel, where he warned against “trusting in the arm of flesh” (which I have come to believe means ‘human effort’, especially our own), rather than “trusting in God” (meaning, as I see it, in keeping his commandments, even the commandment to “…be fruitful, (to) multiply and repenish the earth” (replenish means to ‘refill’—since our premortal, like our post mortal, spirit world may be ‘here’ [or, at least, not far from here, maybe], refilling the world with people made of (also) flesh and bones, is perhaps mere replication of those put here as just spirits by Heavenly Parents.

            I also have come to muse over the likelihood of what this phrase in the Book of Mormon means regarding the 4th generation from the generation the resurrected Savior ministered to following his resurrection, as Moroni calls US out on it—

            3 O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, WHY HAVE YE BUILT UP CHURCHES UNTO YOURSELVES TO GET GAIN? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God; for behold, the time cometh at that day when all these things must be fulfilled.

            34 Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you.


            36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.

            37 FOR BEHOLD, YE DO LOVE MONEY, AND YOUR SUBSTANCE, AND YOUR FINE APPAREL, AND THE ADORNING OF YOUR CHURCHES, MORE THAN YE LOVE THE POOR AND THE NEEDY, the sick and the afflicted. (DD: Aren’t ‘spirit children’ “NEEDY” for bodies of ‘flesh and bone”)?

          2. 5 of several (and the last ONE)!

            38 O YE pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, WHO SELL YOURSELVES FOR THAT WHICH WILL CANKER, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?

            39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that WHICH HATH NO LIFE, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?

            40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?

            41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the
            blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.

            —Mormon 8:33–41

            Aren’t such words, and what they may FULLY mean, some of the SOLEMNITIES OF ETERNITY we need to think AND APPROPRIATELY ACT UPON (and not just for those humans who are ALREADY here, but those who need to come, if only we will invite ALL of them to come into our home/s)?

            The Savior said during his mortal ministry—

            13 AND THEY BROUGHT YOUNG CHILDREN TO HIM, that he should touch them: AND HIS DISCIPLES REBUKED THOSE THAT BROUGHT THEM. (Some of you have mentioned how sometimes ‘gentiles’, I’ve seen LDS Church MEMBERS, “rebuke those that BRING” children into the world, as we should).

            14 But when Jesus saw it, he was MUCH DISPLEASED, and said unto them, SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME, AND FORBID THEM NOT: FOR OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD. (NOTE the Savior’s EXTREMELY STRONG REBUKE of those REBUKERS. Are we not to follow the Savior’s example. Shouldn’t WE, as married couples ‘SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN, even babies, to COME UNTO [US], and FORBID THEM NOT—either by pill, potion, or any other means)!?!

            15 Verily I say unto you, WHOSOEVER SHALL NOT RECEIVE THE KINGDOM OF GOD AS A LITTLE CHILD, HE SHALL NOT ENTER THEREIN. (We are ALL “SLOW LEARNERS”. I’ve found that it helps a LOT to have a LOT of good example, like many SMALL CHILDREN around—especially your OWN children, and your OWN grandchildren)!!

            16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

            17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, GOOD MASTER, WHAT SHALL I DO THAT I MAY INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE? (even though this verse was supposedly on a different subject, in another instance, I think it very MUCH applies to the above incident)!

            —Mark 10:13–17

            ‘Stuff’ (even NEAT stuff) “has ‘no life'” in it. Even if it was “self-aware artificial intelligence”, as ‘cool’ as that may be, it “has not life” to it!

  11. There are a handful of explanations for lower birth rates posited by demographers and economists. These include:

      Increased wages for women (high opportunity cost)
      Higher incomes and better social programs (less need for children to support us in old age)
      Urbanization (we don’t need to give birth to people to work on our farms)
      Lower mortality rates (you used to need 10 kids to see 4 or 5 make it to adulthood – not so anymore, at least in economically developed countries)
  12. Ok. In an old-fashioned farm economy a child starts to break even around eight years of age and can turn a measurable profit by age twelve.

    I remember a kid on my mission whose dad had turned three wives into money (twenty-one kids, was a millionaire in the 70s as a rancher).

    I knew dairy farmers in the 80s who had done the same thing, three bedroom houses, 8-12 kids.

    Before social security and such the only retirement program people had was their kids.

    But, become a factory worker or a salaryman and kids are a luxury good, not an investment good.

  13. I am glad that Chris has written about this because I had a similar post in mind that might have taken a more controversial position relating to the change of woman’s role in the Church. But, I digress.

    First of all, this is a North America trend in the church, not a WW trend and I think it is a long time coming. I don’t necessarily have the statistical evidence to back it up but here are my observations some of which are slightly different than Chris’. In no particular order.

    1. Change from agricultural economy to industrial economy: Families require less children to help in the family business which in many Mormon communities was agricultural based. You needed a lot of children to run the farm. Moves away from extended families also play into this reduction. Help is further away than before.

    2. Kids are expensive now: it costs a lot to raise a child to age 21. Not all families can afford it anymore.

    3. Women’s role: These days, many women in the Church do not see themselves as “baby factories” any more. They do not see that to be a good latter-day saint they have to be “barefoot and pregnant for 20 years.” Better still, their husbands no longer see their priesthood and virility as inseparable. The Church has instructed husbands to be considerate of their wives in determining how may children to have. Birth control, as mentioned above, does a better job preventing “surprises.”

    4. Over-population: Some sensitivity here, but not a large factor.

    5. Mission field factor: Most US saints do not live in Utah, where a minivan filled with children was a requirement.

    6. Less emphasis from church leaders: You just don’t hear the message from the pulpit to have more children. Quality versus quantity.

    That’s what I think.

  14. ‘Zero population is the answer my friend, without it, the rest of us our through!’

    I still sing that song in my head. Man I hated that play. I would be lying if I said I have had 2.5 children because I am afraid of resource scarcity, so that’s not it. People aren’t generally that altruistic.

    Someone nailed it on the head, we have fewer children because we can. It’s not expected, it’s not needed, and their are practical reasons for having fewer. I understand the Mormon mindset of bringing souls to the truth through procreation, but there are obviously many competing interests for our time and resources. We don’t need farm hands any more, so why get the ones you can’t even fire? 🙂 Where it was once practical to have many children, now it is practical to have fewer.

  15. I LOVE that you mentioned Saturday’s Warrior. I loved that movie as a kid. Today the only song I can remember is the Zero population song. I sing it to my husband ALL the time. He hates it since he A. Wants kids and B. Comes from a family of 11.

    I’ve noticed the shrinkage. I guess having been married three years without offspring, I’m a part of it. By the time my mother had been married this long she had 3 pregnancies and 2 babies. The cost of a growing family pushed my parents into debt which lingered for years. I tell myself that I’m not having kids because I’m being practical. I’m the primary provider (my husband goes to school). I want to be financially independent, I like my job, and I don’t feel any irrational desire to multiply and replenish.

  16. Along with the in shift from agricultural economy to industrial economy making children less of an economic asset, there was a shift from connected rural society to a disconnected urban society. There was once more extended family and it was closer, so the demands on a nuclear family weren’t quite so burdensome. When families were larger, the older and middle children already had an apprenticeship in parenting tasks: Changing diapers, playing with the baby, soothing tantrums, and so forth. Younger children got their training with nieces and nephews.

  17. This discussion is interesting, but are we mixing two separate questions into one? It seams there are 2 questions to consider?

    1. Why is family size decreasing in the general population (assuming we’re limited to the USA/Europe, otherwise this discussion is probably not valid)?
    2. Why is Mormon family size becoming more comparable to the average overall family size?

    It seems to me the post is addressing the second question. So when we are discussing agricultural trends, are you talking about it as answer to the first question? Or are we saying that Mormons used to be over-represented in agriculture and now are more urban? I’m just trying to clarify what question we are trying to answer here. Or are the 2 question too interelated to try to separate them with a clean line?

  18. My wife and I both come from largish families (8 & 7 respectively). We currently have four boys, with the decision whether or not to have more being indefinitely delayed. My wife is currently in a mental state where making that decision appropriately is not possible. That is, between running after the kids all day and dealing with the stress and the repetition of it all, she just isn’t ready to think about being pregnant again. Pregnancy is extremely difficult for her so it wouldn’t be very smart right now to have another child. But we REALLY want a girl. We’ve always wanted a girl. We always hoped that we would have two or more girls and two or more boys, but we need a break right now.

    I think that a lot of people in the church have an idea that having more children makes life more difficult. It does, to an extent, make life busier. After a point though, it no longer makes things harder. What it does, is force organization. You line things up, prioritze, and rebudget. The older ones help with the younger ones and learn more about work. It changes the family dynamics drastically, but it also makes you turn off the TV, and you play more together.

    I think one major reason that family size is shrinking is due to the absence of extended family being nearby. While I know of a few notable exceptions, I think many times the people that had the biggest families in the past were those that had extended family close by OR that lived on a farm so that they could work and grow most of their own food. The extended family assists when there are emergencies, during times when babies or parents are ill or injured, and the farm is a major consideration given the cost of feeding 8 or 10 or 12 children plus adults. Especially once the older ones become adults.

    Now, in my ward currently there is a family that is quite well off financially that has 14 children. He is politically well-connected, but I’m not sure of the details. Another family has 7 children, and is constantly fostering additional children. I had a mission companion who was from a family of 11 children, and it does happen. Yes, it is less common, but thankfully, I am glad to see large families still. I hope that it does continue, and mostly just to show that well adjusted women can raise a very large family and be quite happy at the same time. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t paying attention, but I know that there also some women with just one child who are quite miserable raising that child.

  19. I think this is simply a matter of demographics – this same decline in family size is seen in ALL industrialized countries without exception, for a variety of reasons, many of which were listed above. The church’s softening stance on birth control and family sizes is simply a reaction to an irresistible demographic force. Some industrialized countries (ie Japan) have tried financial incentives to reverse the trend, as they have fallen below replacement (which is something like 2.2 children per woman), with very limited success. In essence – women have the power not to have children and they feel they and their families are often better with fewer kids. People get married later, need more education, kids ARE more expensive than they used to be, etc. The question is – maybe this is God’s will? After all, there are 5 billion of us down here now, more than at any time in the long history of humanity – maybe this slowing is part of the plan? I personally don’t feel this has anything at all to do with Saturday’s Warriors BTW.

  20. I believe strongly that our society is much like the Nephite society of old. We are becoming much more wealthier, and what were luxeries for our parents have become necessities for us. Do we really need 25050 square foot houses, fancy new cars and big screen TVs? I have 4 children, and wouldn’t trade them for the world. Granted, we may live a lot more frugally than almost anyone else I know, we enjoy our time together. The Church may not focus on big families anymore, but they do focus on education, which has a direct correlation to the ability to make a living.

  21. Our society expects so much more of parents. As you mentioned Christopher something as small as seat belt laws kind of reflects society’s changing expectations for parents. Fifty years ago parents weren’t expected to keep their children safe from all potential dangers. Kids played in their neighborhoods unattended, walked to school by themselves, and rode in the car on their parents lap. Those may seem like little things but when parents have to watch their children every minute of every day and drive them to everything from school to a visit to a friends house a block away until their 10 years old the burden gets to be overwhelming.
    I also think a lot of the things that facilitate a large family are relatively more expensive. Home prices have gone up faster than income, for example, making the large homes that the middle class could afford harder and harder to come by.

  22. I was thinking about the idea that just as extended families are no longer available, neither are older siblings able to take care/play with younger ones. Just as society in general has become distracted by TV, video games, the Internet, etc, the honorable role of caring for our brothers and sisters is no longer fashionable. The fact is one mother and one father cannot do it all any more. The benefit of a large family is no longer as viable as it once was.

    With the rise of ADD/ADHD, autism and other problems, parents have to devote more time to those children with special needs.

  23. It comes down to your own personal decision. Outside influences only play as big a role as you allow them. I have friends that are trying to be super parents with their kids excelling in everything, but that is not my speed. I can handle having a larger(5) number of kids because I’m not obsessed with that and it’s what we felt was right. If I was obsessed like that I can see how 2-3 would be overwhelming. Also, it’s a decision between you, your spouse, and the Lord and no one else. We shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling like we are done with 1 or 2 or feeling like we want to have more until we have 9 or 10. We need to be happy with what we have agreed to with each other and the Lord. No one is making you have unprotected sex, hopefully, or making you always use birth control, hopefully. Trust God, have fun and relax. No pressure, but air pressure, baby.

  24. I came from a family of five, but I of myself have two. Mostly because of divorce and becoming a single Dad. Upset and unstable families are yet another factor in this. Another disturbing thought: if someone considered the Kingdom Of God a threat, what would be one method of fighting against it? Decreasing the number of missionaries and converts. How do you decrease the number of missionaries and converts? Create conditions where they will never be born. Hummmmmmm….

  25. Amazing that nobody has yet to hit the true reasons.

    The first step on this path was this:

    The Great Depression

    People still ignore how badly the Great Depression scared the American genius. 25% of the workforce could not find a job. That is just incredible. That doesn’t even count all the people who had to take make work and other jobs outside their profession. This was the most traumatic event to occur in our nations history since the Civil War. It took a hundred years to even begin to heal from the Civil War and yet people act like the Great Depression just went away after WWII.

    One of the things people miss is that the Great Depression severely damaged the family unit. While divorce historically drops during economic downturns, during the Great Depression it skyrocketed- and that doesn’t even consider the number of husbands who simply abandoned their wives. Nor does it consider the crushing impact of a father becoming an unemployed drain on the family instead of the family support. Alcohol use increased as well.

    Look at the families that were formed by the children of the Great Depression. Think of the sudden emphasis on accumulating material wealth and possessions. Consider the mother telling their daughters to grow up and marry doctors and lawyers. Those hadn’t been the cherished marriage material before the Great Depression. The 50’s have been called the return to normalcy, but it was more a warped and twisted version of normality.

    Read the literature from pre-Depression eras and compare the fathers role with that of post Depression eras. Pre-Depression the father was an enormous figure in the home, he was the ruler of the house and filled a big role in children’s lives separate from his role as a provider. Post-Depression literature depicts the father as a distant figure who works at his job. His main relationship to the family is as a provider. Why?

    Because during the Great Depression fathers all over the country had to focus all their energies on providing financially. Is it any wonder that their sons grew up to think that was what it meant to be a man? Or that their daughters grew up think that was what to look for in a husband? And what of the fathers who abandoned their families- what do you think the Great Depression highlighted as the worst part of not having a husband or father?

    So by the 50’s and 60’s you have a host of unhappy and unfulfilled men, who have reached a dead end at their jobs, and yet their culture says that all their value comes as a provider and worker. They feel like failures. Of course many respond to that feeling by trying to make themselves feel better by putting others down. Maybe they were not enjoying the job, and maybe they couldn’t look forward to promotions and honors at work- but at least they could lord it over their wives as superior because they provided for the family while the wife didn’t bring home a paycheck.

    Of course the trauma of the Great Depression had prepared men and women to actually believe that nonsense. And of course this was believed in turn by their daughters- who decided that instead of marrying a lawyer, why shouldn’t they just be a lawyer and claim the superiority of working for their own.

    That when you had the counter-culture of the sixties. While those who suffered through the Great Depression knew that family was indispensable to happiness, those who lived during the prosperity of the 50’s and 60’s had no such experience to temper the cultural emphasis on material and career success as the measure of a persons worth. A desire to reject that materialism took the form of rejecting the family unit. You had the Hippies running away from homes and forming alternative replacements for families. The families they did form were not based around children as previous families had been. Now this can be overstates, as only about half of the Baby-Boomers joined in this revolt to some degree, and that means half of the Baby-boomers stayed true to the normal traditional family. This was the source of the revival of traditional ideals during the 80’s. However even this group was still effected by the scars of the Great Depression- as shown by the Yuppie culture and the emphasis on material and career success.

    Modern Feminist thought is the current main idealogical vehicle for the promotion of this idea that material and career success are more important the family success. To this day the women of America are caught in a vicious culture war between two opposing ideals of womanhood. And it is vicious- a woman who decides to have a large family is subjected to disdain and disrespect by other women. I saw it happen to my mother all the time at school meetings. My mother meets with the principle and my mother is treated with condescension- but as soon as my father shows up, he his treated with respect. The worst offenders were always the female principles.

    Now how do Mormons fit into this twisting of the American mind?

    The culture of the Mormon church was supremely effective in countering the initial effects of the Great Depression. To some extent through the welfare services and community support. But most of all through the fact that Mormon doctrine places the father in a vital role in the family regardless of his employment. It is no accident that during the Great Depression a major shift was made to start emphasizing that Priesthood blessings should first be sought from fathers and husbands. These kinds of things continue to this day with Mormon culture that insists a father needs to be more than just a paycheck.

    Therefor the women of the church was not fertile ground for the Feminist movement of the 50’s and 60’s because there was never as strong an belief among Mormons that self worth came from career success.

    However, we have not been as successful in keeping our youth free of these ideas. Young men are mainly seduced by the temptation of greater material wealth to be had by having a wife work- which of course means less time for children. The Brethren have been pushing back very strongly against this in recent years.

    Young women on the other hand are tempted not so much by material wealth as they are by the desire to be accepted and given approval by their fellow women/peers. I don’t know how many young women have said something to me along the lines of: “I’m not going to get married before I graduate college, I’m not going to be like my mother”. As the oldest child of a mother who married before graduating (and so wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t), I tend to find this extremely offensive. Essentially young women today are saying that they accept the world’s judgment of their mothers as less because they placed family before career. Most young women of course deny this when confronted about it. There is a very schizophrenic aspect to it. Many of them once they marry do decide to reject the worldly view and have a larger family. However, most of them will delay their marriage until their late twenties- and by doing so limit the size of their future families by default.

    I think the Brethren are at a loss as to what to do about it. Historically they would depend on mothers being the influence against this. However, I think many mothers are conflicted. They have experienced first hand the ostracism that comes from other women for their decision to have a large family, and naturally would like to spare their daughters that pain.

    Right now I think American culture as a whole is on the edge- trying to decide which way it is going to fall. That said, I suspect American Mormon families will probably stabilize around 4 children average for awhile. Whether this increases or falls in the next generation will depend of how willing the members of the are to repent.

    Make no mistake. The ultimate source of the decrease in family size is sin. Whether the sin of material selfishness among men, or the emotional selfishness of women it’s all sin, and a refusal to obey the first commandment.

  26. i came from a family of 6 kids. i was in the middle. the main reason i don’t want a big family is because often growing up i felt like my parents didn’t have enough time & attention for me. i felt overlooked often. yes, i know this is a typical middle child syndrome, but i am surprised no one else has mentioned anything similar.

    doesn’t it make sense, though, that many of these mormons who grew up in big families thought, man, that was kind of tough, i’m not going to do that to my kids.

    that, plus i really don’t feel like i would have the emotional resources/physical energy to keep up with more than four kids.

    but that’s not a big family, is it? 😉

  27. It is not just Mormons who are experiencing procreative shrinkage. I have
    read numerous articles in scientific journals about the falling birth rate
    all over the world. There are many theories: hormones from discarded pills
    in the water, mercury pollution, evidence that some women are ovulating in
    different ways, and overall low sperm counts. You name it, we are polluted
    and less healthy, even though we have plenty to eat.

    So maybe it might not be that Mormon culture is changing but that we as
    humans are physiologically different from 20-30 years ago, so we simply
    conceive less.

  28. These two statements…..

    “Why are Mormon families getting smaller? Aside from heath issues – not enough faith!”


    “Make no mistake. The ultimate source of the decrease in family size is sin.”

    sound unenlightened and intolerant.

    There really is no way to gauge why or why not anyone has children. I suspect that other “real” issues are more relevant to birth rates in the Mormon church.

    1. Financial- The burden of raising a family in this fast paced society puts huge strains on the any family. Many parents feel a responsibility to ensure that they can provide for the children that they bring into the world. Let us keep in mind that all of us have different definitions of “provide.” Therein lies the controversy. We should all be allowed to define the term for ourselves.

    2. Physical- Many parents just are not physically able to care for large families. We all have physical bodies and they are all different. What one set of parents are able to accomplish in the home is far different than their “neighbor.” Some parents have children who have physical disabilities. This determines their abilities to care and provide for other children.

    3. Emotional-Some people grow into adulthood happy and healthy. They have had parents who loved and cared for them. They have no emotional baggage. But, the church has it’s fair share of emotionally damaged adults. They may not have the patience, love, understanding and selflessness that is needed to raise a large family.

    I am certain that there are other “real” issues why Mormon families are shrinking. I do not believe for one minute that “sin” or “faith” are a viable reason.

    The last time I checked…those very personal decisions were between a couple and God.

  29. from unenlightened and intolerant – Faith that the Lord can guide you in the decision making process, is what is needed. When couples are sealed in the temple it is a three way union with the Lord. The chandeliers over each altar represent the light from above that is available to guide you and ENLIGHTEN you in all important decisions.

    Personally speaking, my husband said he would love and support however many I felt up to having.I was “done” after 5 kids but I did not make the final decision alone. After a VERY long night of prayer I had a tender experience with my Heavenly Father that assured me that if I had another child everything would work out….what I would have missed if I’d never had that last child. He is amazing. Six was right for us, two for another and ten for someone else…the point is to have Heavenly Father be part of the most important decision you as a couple will ever make and ignore all the other worldly “reasons”.

  30. I am coming late to this discussion, sorry.

    Craig, did you got to USUHS? When I was in medical school there (93-97) my experience was that people were surprised that as a mormon I only had two kids. I frequently was asked, in all sincerity, when I was going to have more!

    We stopped at two because of health reasons. And, like Kevin, I am perfectly happy with the size of my family.

    As an expansion upon John Hammer’s previous comments, let me share the following opinions.

    As I have gotten older, I have come to the belief, opposite that of Lorna’s, that larger families are a sin. (OK, hyperbole and overstatement recognized) I will encourage my children to keep their families small. As I learn more about the industrialization of agriculture and the globalization of food sources and the effect these things have on our environment (not to mention our own health), the more I believe that the zero population movement of the 60s and 70s had things right. Population growth is hurting the planet. It’s not the only reason we are facing our environmental problems, but it certainly contributes. As mormons, I feel that we have a responsibility to be stewards of the earth, and if we can be better stewards by limiting our family size it is something that should have our serious consideration.

  31. Hmmm, I still feel like multiply and replenish the earth has pretty much filled the earth – however, it is interesting to note that many of the most crowded countries still have the highest birthrates. Some of this is because the only social security parents have is their children, some is a high infant mortality rate, some is lack of access to birth control. It does seem like the trend is the more education and prosperous people become the more they limit the size of their families. I don’t necessarily think this is good or bad – it is just a trend. By the way I had six children and went to medical school – and I am female – but I don’t believe any of my children will have anything like that many children.

  32. Oldest of 12 children here. 8 of us are over age 23. (2 more girls are poised to graduate this year, with a couple more sibs just entering teenage hood.

    Out of the 6 of us adults who are women, none of us have had kids. I have two brothers who have, and incidentally, they are number 6 and 7 of the crowd – just about the youngest of us, since the last four children are so much younger than the rest of us. One has one daughter, the other has two.

    My theory is that the girls in my family spent most of their lives looking after their younger sibs and made the choice very young not to have any of their own. It will be interesting watching what happens with my three youngest sisters (the ones under 18), to see if they’re affected the same way, given that they didn’t have the same level of childcare responsiiblities.

    I love my nieces, but they don’t motivate me to have children of my own. I’m another person who believes there are far more people on earth than there should be. Not that I’m planning on a rampage to correct that or anything; I just don’t want to add to the numbers.

    1. I am the oldest of 9 kids and the one child I had at age 24 I placed her for adoption in a wonderful home, she will be 9 this year. I rarely regret this decision & do not plan on having anymore children. I simply do not want to have kids, its a huge responsibility. I think being eldest I got burnt out on parenting, plus seeing my parents not being really strong enough emotionally to handle all of us really turned me off to the whole thing. My Mom and Grandpa both used to joke that the more kids you had, the more servants you had! My Moms side of the family traces back to Hyrum Smith & has many large families in it.

      I think the world is more… dangerous now or it is harder to keep faith so smaller family units are raising quality kids rather than quantity who may be unsure of their identities… we know so much more about child development & psychology now & that knowledge lends to a more intensive parenting role.

      “It takes a village to raise a child” is true & I think I will have an important role in my nieces & nephews upbring/support system as they grow into adults. my two cents!

  33. I think the main reason that Mormon families are smaller today is because of the Pill. We are products of the culture we live in, and when the pill came out in 1960, it gave to families the first really effective way to plan their family. So while the church opposed the ERA, their was no formal opposition to the pill (that I am aware of) which left members to make their own choices in this regard. Now 40 years later, we have fully embraced the ability to control when and how many children we have. ‘How many kids are you going to have?’ is a common question, usually responded to with a number. I’m pretty sure this question was not asked in the church in 1960, since no one with confidence could really say.

  34. I think it all boils down to selfishness, though you do present some intriguing theories.

    I have 10 children and my sister has 10 children (and her husband is currently our bishop). In our ward we have families with 12, 11, and 10. The families with fewer children continue to grow each year. Sounds like our ward is the exception, though.

    I honestly do not believe there is anything better than family and big families teach the family members things they couldn’t learn any other way. I’m thankful every single day that Heavenly Father has blessed me with so many kids.

  35. I believe the majority of why we do not have more children than I believe we should is because of selfish reasons. Having children always has been and should always be an unselfish act. To join with our Heavenly Father to provide a physical body for each of his spirit children should always be something we look forward to and cherish. In what else can we be that close to actually helping our Heavenly Father fulfill his purpose for the eternal destiny of his children?

    We have a responsibility to be stewards over this planet but we also have a responsibility to fulfill the first commandment that was ever given on this earth, namely to “multiply and replenish the earth.” According to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency declared “that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” Our Heavenly Father would not have provided this earth with all of it natural resources as well as commanded us to multiply and replenish it if there was not the ability to provide the necessities of life for all of his children.

    The Mormon people have always been a people of non-conformity and I believe they will continue to be. Just because the world is limiting the amount of children that are born to their families doesn’t mean that the members of the church should do the same. If we are doing as the Lord commands us to do, He will provide a way for us to take care of each and everyone of those children that are born into our family.

    If you want to know if the leadership of the church are looking to us to continue to live the law to “multiply and replenish the earth” check out Julie B. Beck’s talk in the October 2007 General Conference, “Mothers Who Know.” (Source:,5232,23-1-775-27,00.html)

    Here is an expert from that talk:

    “Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are “becoming less valued,”2 in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children. Prophets, seers, and revelators who were sustained at this conference have declared that “God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”3 President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels.”4

    Faithful daughters of God desire children. In the scriptures we read of Eve (see Moses 4:26), Sarah (see Genesis 17:16), Rebekah (see Genesis 24:60), and Mary (see 1 Nephi 11:13–20), who were foreordained to be mothers before children were born to them. Some women are not given the responsibility of bearing children in mortality, but just as Hannah of the Old Testament prayed fervently for her child (see 1 Samuel 1:11), the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain here will rise with them in the Resurrection (see D&C 130:18). Women who desire and work toward that blessing in this life are promised they will receive it for all eternity, and eternity is much, much longer than mortality. There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.”

  36. I am a mother of five adult children. My children are not having more than three. I think that my kids were more alert and aware of the trials we, as their parents, went through raising kids. Being a parent is difficult. While there are many rewards, it was tough 25 years ago when my youngest was born. I was also blessed to be a stay at home mother. I can’t imagine what parents go through these days. I think the Lord saved the strongest willed children for the end. I watch my grandchildren’s behavior and am so glad I don’t have little kids any more. I struggled with mine and we didn’t have computers to tempt them, and the television and movies weren’t any where near as bad as they are now. My children were aware of the problems of the world. We discussed things with them as they happened in the news. Put a child down today in front of CNN and they’ll be terrified by what goes on. There seem to be more diseases and health problems, such as autism, ADHD, etc. Medical expenses are horrendous. Dental bills are high. Food, gas, house payments. It’s a matter of survival for many to limit their children to two.

  37. One reason that I can think of is the following: I read an article about Pornography. It talked about that the effects on a family that it has. There are a large number of male members of the church that are addicted to pornography. This causes a decrese in intimacy and love with their wife. This in turn causes a decrease in the size of the families and in some cases causes divorce, which in turn also causes the family to stop growing.

    I also know of many people that cannot have biological children of their own and have to turn to adoption. This avenue is very expensive and emotionally draining. After adoptive parents go through this a couple of times, it’s enough. My wife and I have adopted three and it took us five years just to get our first. That was after ten years of trying to have kids on our own. So after fifteen years of marriage we were able to finally adopt our first. The other two came within the next year, which is unique. We now have our hands very full. At my age (40), I feel that our family is plenty full now.

  38. I don’t mean this comment to sound harsh, but anyone who blames someone with a “small” family (especially when that family is as large as or larger than the average family size in their area) is stereotyping in a particularly hurtful way. We have no way of knowing why people choose to have the children they have – or how much that decision is in their control. We have no idea how much pain and heartache we cause when we accuse people of selfishness who might have suffered multiple miscarriages, or lost children of whom we aren’t aware, or are dealing with infertility and lack of resources to adopt, or mental or physical disabilities, or any number of others situations. The Church doesn’t try to dictate number of children – making it very clear (in no uncertain terms) that such a decision is entirely up to each couple.

    There are apostles who have three or fewer children. I would be hesitant to tell them that they were acting selfishly simply because they didn’t have as many as I have. No, I take that back; I wouldn’t be hesitant. A better statement would be that I would never be so presumptuous.

  39. I’m 25 and pregnant with my third baby. I did finish college. I was raised with the knowledge that I can accomplish anything I want to in life but that family is the most important thing in the world. I think people my age aren’t having as many kids because us younger women were raised in a “this life is about me, and I can do anything” mindset. So it’s a HUGE sacrifice for me to be a stay at home mom, but at the same time, I can’t choose another way because I want to raise my own kids. I want to have six kids, but I don’t want to have less than five because I feel like that’s a cop out. I feel like if I can have that many kids, then I should and need to do it. But I don’t want more than six because I feel like that’s too many kids.

    At the same time, all I want to do is go to graduate school and have a life of my own. I feel like I’m sacrificing my whole self, and I kind of want this time to hurry past so I can focus on myself again. But at the same time, I know I should be enjoying this stage because it will pass by “too quickly” according to some people.

    I also get jealous of people who “get to” stop early. My friend is thirty and just got her tubes tied after her fourth kid. I thought, why does she get to stop when she can easily have two more? But I know it’s not just that I feel like I “have to,” but I do sincerely want each child that I’m going to have. And you have to trust that other people that they make their own decisions based on faith and what they want, so I don’t judge them for having less, just get a little envious that the child-bearing stage is already over for them.

    So there are always the two sides of me fighting. Just now I was trying to find information on a Mormon mom who went to medical school at 47 after she had five kids, and I want to be able to do the same thing. But I want all my kids, too! I’m worried I’ll be too old. AHHHH this life! And at the same time, will I ever get a life of my own?

  40. Mr Bigelow, I find it astonishing that more than a tiny handful of Men would voluntarily get vasectomies. I say this because historically and contemporaneously Men of all faiths, including atheist and agnostic Men,have the instinct to father as many children as they possibly can(this DOES include illegitimate children resulting from affairs as well as sperm donations mind you). Perhaps the shrinkage of family size has to do not only with wealth(many mormon’s are prosperous and more affluent a couple is the fewer children they have), but also the fact that we live much longer than people did past centuries and so the focus has changed from quantity to quality when it comes to raising children.

  41. All right, my turn, I’m pregnant with my 6th right now and I don’t even really want to step outside, we live in a small community where there are very few mormons around.  I love children, have always wanted a large family and was sad when I couldn’t start young and just have as many as I could.  I was raised in the church and I feel strongly that kids and posterity are a big part of what this life is all about.  I find I’m happiest when I’m surrounded by these wonderful children.  I travelled and worked for years before I was blessed with these children, so I’m not going into this naively, I know what’s out there in the world and nothing compares to this joy I feel right now.  Another thing is we’ve even started homeschooling and wow, that’s another interesting part of life, teaching the kids the gospel more and more and more one-on-ones with them.  I’m getting away from oh the churches job is the teach them that or the schools job is to teach them that, instead I’m really taking ownership of what is taught to my own children.

  42. Right now my husband and I are trying to decide if we should have a fifth child.  There is no doubt that we both want another child and that the child would be loved completely by us and it’s siblings.  However, for the past two years we have been struggling financially to the point that we are having a hard time providing basic necessities such as food and clothing for our children.  With my husband working two jobs and me continuing my education we are doing our best to get back on our feet, but in the mean time it is extremely busy and stressful every single day anymore.  We want to be self-reliant and take care of our duty as parents to provide for our children physically and spiritually.  I feel like my desire to provide for the children I already have and my desire for another child is equally great and am just torn inside that I have to make this eternally important decision at such a challenging temporal time that is such a small moment of my existence.   I love my family, and I know that the Lord will guide us to make the decision that is in accordance with His will and that will be in the best interest of my family.  I would hate to think that anyone would judge me and my husband for whatever decision we will make because I have the faith that it will be what the Lord will be pleased with.  I guess the point that I am trying to make is that we very rarely know the ins and outs of why people do what they do and if life has taught me nothing else, it would be not to judge others.  The reasons for why people have as many children as they have probably vary so much we can’t number them.  We need to just love each other and support each other.  Charity…. we need to all pray earnestly that we might be blessed with it.

  43. Quoted from the LDS Leader’s Handbook:  21.4.4  Birth Control
    “It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spirit children of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord.
    Church members should not judge one another in this matter.  Married couples should also understand that 
    sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.”

    This is all that is written – – I don’t see any warnings about assumed selfishness or lack of faith.  I see this as a vote from the Brethren of their trust in members to exercise faith, to be prayerful and humble and to seek to be obedient and seek God’s will for Them, individually.  It saddens me to read  here Latter-day Saint adults who continue to judge others on such an ‘extremely intimate and private’ matter.  Thankfully I know the Lord will be my judge, and not them.  Does it ever occur to those reading (& judging) about this topic that it is a big question because of it’s personal nature?  Perhaps even if we know a ‘small’ family is our life’s experience – even if we’d welcome more if it were God’s will, we maybe ask about the differences in the family sizes in the Church to feel the reassurance of other Saints that we too, as children of God, are still just as valuable and ‘worthy’ with our ‘small’ families as the ‘traditional large’ families; and that we have a welcome place in the fold?

     I have cried many a tear because of the misunderstanding and judgments of others because of the ‘Utah Mormon Culture’ that creates the pressure to ‘keep up’ with the ideal, large Mormon family image.  I feel inadequate and fearful that even though I have been prayerful and have dealt with many personal trials in this journey of having children, that I somehow still haven’t done all I could to bring more children into this world to be obedient to the ‘multiply and replenish’ commandment.  I have asked the haunting question – will I meet children that were supposed to come to our family?  Was I wrong to honor my husband’s desire to use birth control while he got his bearings so he could guarantee that I could stay home with our children when they came?  Did it take longer for me to get pregnant the first time as punishment for waiting?  Did the birth-control ‘hurt’ my system?  Will my crippling post-partum depression, my husband’s choice to be ‘done at 2’, my grief for a brother’s death 8 weeks after delivery creating a slower recovery and another ‘depressed wife’ causing my husband to fear ever going through it again, and my historically unreliable menstrual cycle be ‘reason enough’ for only have 2?  Certainly the ‘Saturday’s Warriors’ idea that spirits are waiting around to come to ‘that family’ has done more harm than good in reassuring people of a just and omniscient God who loves us perfectly and is no respecter of persons.  Does that mean that those who have 2 children only had 2 spirits want to be with them?  Does that mean those with 2 children will be held accountable for the 6 other kids they ‘didn’t’ have?  Certainly we can all admit this is ridiculous and it ‘doesn’t work that way.’

    Realistically – it takes 2 ‘yeses’ to have more children (actually 3 if you count the Lord), and only 1 ‘no’.  I  have to trust that the Lord honors our agency enough that he will be more pleased with my respecting my husband’s desires and choice than my choosing to manipulate and coerce him into having more that will require so much more from him considering my history of mental health issues after pregnancy.  I am very grateful for my two daughters and hope as I am a good steward of them here on earth that I may one day enjoy an eternal increase when my body and mind are free from the limitations I experience in mortality.  I am the oldest of 7, my husband is the 3rd of 6.  My younger sister just had her 5th baby yesterday and my other sister has 3 ages 4.5, 2, 1.  I hope to also use my divine motherly feelings towards my nieces and nephews and all the neighbor children I babysit.  I love children and I love the Lord.  One day I pray I’ll understand why I was only called to raise 2 daughters in this life.  (& Who knows – I’m 33, maybe by some miracle I’ll still be a mother to more?)

  44. I have three young children, one of whom has medical problems and would not have survived more than a few hours thirty years ago.  Finances are not good, and I really wish I could say I see an improvement coming anytime soon, but I don’t.  At this time we cannot afford any more children.  I would love to have another one, but I think this is the best decision for our family right now.  

  45. Just curious Bountiful, now that you’re pregnant, why don’t you want to step outside? Are you embarrassed about the number of children you have in comparison to your non-mormon neighbors, and now you’re pregnant again?

  46. I’m a non-mormon, but, I’ve been aware of the decrease in the average size of mormon families over the years just from listening to the news, reading and TV documentaries.
    The author’s comment:
    “Birth control is less frowned upon within Mormonism nowadays. I’m amazed by how many rather orthodox, conservative Mormon men of my generation have gotten vasectomies. (I got one too at age 39, and I quite love being free of fertility baggage.)” was confirming for me relative to Mitt Romney’s objective to cut out planned parenthood. I wasn’t surprised that Mitt would take that stance, but at the same time, I wondered how did he and his wife maintain their family at 5 children yet he wants to cut out birth control for women. So, no doubt he got a vasectomy; yet he can pitch this to those he needs to appease as the Man being in charge of the family planning and not the woman having say over what happens to her own body.
    That idea ranks right down there with when men spanked (or beat) their wives sanctioned by society and the courts back then; it was alright to publicized in the Sunday Comics Dagwood giving Blondie a hairbrush spanking for doing something without getting his approval first; and Clark Gable slapping Lana Turner across the face so hard, in a movie back in the day, that the director made sure it was captured on screen that the slap sent her sliding across the floor ending up in a heap in the corner holding the side of her face, whimpering, with her legs “prettily” curled up to the side of her, daring not cry out or say a word while Clark Gable lectured her about why she “needed” to be slapped. She wound up crawling back to him and making passionate love with him before the movie ended. I was 4 years old when my father took the family to see that movie. But that was okay fare for kids to see to propogate the next generation. Just think how many other girls my age, older and younger also saw and read similar fare.
    Oh, by the way, I came from the same generation as did Gloria Steinem. As a matter of fact she and I are the same age, and interestingly both come from Toledo, Ohio, although my family and I lived in Chicago when I saw the movie. That movie and similar ones must have had quite an impact on us girls because ours was the generation of Women’s Liberation and we have not looked back to regret it not one bit; and the oncoming generation carry on the torch in their own not so dramatic ways as was necessary for us to get the attention of the men that run this world we live in and to let them know we’re loosening your grip on the lives of women. Now here comes Mitt Romney and his side kick Paul Ryan who is as overtly arch conservative as Mitt Romney is more covertly conservative. Meaning Paul will state out right why he takes his conservative stances whereas Mitt will say things like “I’ll cut out Planned Parenthood” then give a chessie cat broad toothy grin without stating “…because Planned Parenthood is in opposition to his religious beliefs”. The media and everybody else was all over Barack Obama about his supposed religious beliefs presented in spliced sound bytes after whipping up a din around the sound byte presented of what his Pastor said, which was no more than what many people in this country were saying in other words when they said “America is going to hell in a hand basket”. Who goes to hell? The God damned.

    1. I think the main objection to Planned Parenthood is you are forcing others to pay for abortions & birth control who may object very strongly to this. Perhaps you didn’t know that Planned Parenthood couldn’t stay open without public funds. Perhaps you didn’t know that taxes are taken from people by force.

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