LDS Men and Women are not commanded to be parents?

In the comments of my last post, TMD claims that there is no pressure on active LDS couples to have children.

I respectfully disagree.

I have some quotes from current LDS leaders (not mentioning non faith promoting polygamist quotes from the nineteenth century).

Gordon B. Hinckley Nov, 1996

Both quotes are taken from an interview with Mike Wallace.

“Parents have no greater responsibility in this world than the bringing up of their children in the right way, and they will have no greater satisfaction as the years pass than to see those children grow in integrity and honesty and make something of their lives. …”

“We don’t dictate family size. That is left to the father and the mother, the husband and wife. And we expect them to make of this the most serious business of their lives, the rearing of the family. …”

(Please note, he doesn’t say up to the husband and wife first, he mentions father and mother first).

Here is another quote from Spencer W. Kimball:
“Young women should plan and prepare for marriage and the bearing and rearing of children. It is your divine right and the avenue to the greatest and most supreme happiness.”
Spencer W. Kimball, “Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,” New Era, Jan
1979, 42

From Apostle James Faust, Oct. 2005 Thousand threads of Love

“The Lord has directed, “Bring up your children in light and truth.” To me, there is no more important human effort. Being a father or a mother is not only a great challenge; it is a divine calling. It is an effort requiring consecration. President David O. McKay

So, if those quotes from prophets and apostles can’t be seen as implying that LDS leaders take parenting very seriously (and the call to be a parent very seriously), there are other cultural references.

Take the 70s musical “Saturday’s Warrior” the naysayers in “Zero Population” don’t understand why the family keeps having children – waiting for the last child who looks down on her family from the pre-existence.

Not that the recent pbs documentary “The Mormons” should be the last word, but it was clear to me in the family segment that families are seen as a cornerstone of the contemporary LDS faith. No families were portrayed as a couple with no children. The last segments spoke about families “being righteous” to be together in the hereafter. Because the endowments would be done so that a family can be together eternally.

I could go on but will wait for responses.

But in addition, I submit this question for all current or former mormons.

Do you really know active LDS child-bearing age couples who do not have kids and are not public about their infertility?

And by active, I mean temple going or at least non coffee drinking, no alcohol drinking, little to no gambling active. Sacrament meeting 51 weeks out of the year active.

I’m not talking about couples who have been temple married for six months. I’m not talking about couples who had been previously married with children from prior marriages and have decided not to have kids with their current partner.

I’m talking about couples that are in their mid thirties and who have been married for over five years.

I don’t remember a single couple like that. I’m sure they exist. I just think they are the exception rather than the rule.

I can’t imagine, in my parents’ ward, the husband making it to high priest without kids. I don’t remember a single woman ever getting up to bear her testimony that God had revealed to her that she needed to focus on her career instead of children. Or a man stating that he was comfortable not being a father. That having children was just “not right for them”.

Because I do remember people openly discussing their infertility woes during testimony meeting. I do remember that if there were couples who were not able to conceive, somehow the word got out. Maybe they told their visiting teacher or home teacher who told someone else. It’s sad, really, because that decision should be personal. I’m not sure I feel everyone is capable of being a parent or should be a parent.

While it may be true that there are many members who don’t feel like their decision to remain LDS and childless is in conflict, I think the majority of LDS felt like they were called to be parents. There is pressure (and even official pressure) to be a parent, or to try and be a parent.

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16 Responses

  1. chanson says:

    I remember the same thing from my youth: childless couples making their infertility problems public so that no one would think they were deliberately choosing not to have kids. I even remember one couple explaning to the congregation (in testimony meeting or something) that they had health issues that required them to stop after only two kids (otherwise they’d have had more).

    One fireside I attended was given by a guy who told us that he and his wife hadn’t planned to have kids, but that when they converted to Mormonism they realized that their choice not to have kids was “selfish.” So they changed their plans.

    As I recall, having kids was never presented as optional. I don’t know if that has changed recently….

  2. Phouchg says:

    It is well known in the ward in which my residence is in that we have chosen not to have children. I had a vasectomy a year after we got married and the ward gossip mill found out about it from my busybody EQP who bumped into me at the Urologist’s office.

    The reaction from the ward? I am the evil one, and my poor wife is stuck in a childless marriage to an inactive. Actually, my wife is quite content not having children (though she admits she personally wouldn’t mind having children – but understands my complete unchanging desire not to be a father).

  3. Hellmut says:

    Yep, fast and testimony meeting is sometimes the perfect opportunity justify deviation from the norm. That ritual allows us to observe people’s perceptions of Mormon morality.

  4. belaja says:

    OK, I’ll pitch in. One of my BYU roommates knew very early on she didn’t want to have children. She had decided this when we were rooming together in our early 20s–she didn’t have a boyfriend at the time or any prospects. It had nothing to do with anything but what she felt she was capable of dealing with in life and she knew she did not want to have kids.

    She married a guy, an RM, in the temple. He was fine with her desire not to have children. They are childless to this day, active, temple-worthy members. They’re in the their mid-40s now and not getting quite so much attention because their childbearing years are coming to a close. But they have been the object of relentless pressure over the years, from both sides of the family, and from every single ward they have ever been in. People are not shy about quizzing them on the subject nor on voicing their opinions of the decision. I quite admire how they have developed the ability to deflect such intrusions with firm kindness and humor. Their inquisitors are not always so kind or humorous.

    The occasional mention I make of this friend in mormon contexts invariably brings a storm of judgement and condemnation. They are sinning, they are not following the prophet, they are not fullfilling the purpose of their mortality. IT’S JUST WRONG.

    I think, aerin, that you have actually chosen some of the more moderate quotes about the expectation of parenthood in the church. I recall some really barn-burning quotes about people just limiting their families by SWK and Joseph Fielding Smith in particular. To say that the idea that people are expected to have children is a result of “limited exposure to the church” just leaves me scratching my head when the leaders of said church have been plenty condemnatory and publically so, about people who choose otherwise.

  5. Phouchg says:

    “Elder” James Dunn, some lowly Seventy, said the following in April 2003 conference:

    “As the result of such erroneous thinking, the world is filled with lurid and lascivious attractions.

    We see young men refusing to marry; young women foolishly surrendering their virtue in pursuit of lustful relationships; couples who purposefully refuse to have children or who opt for a “trophy child” because a family would interfere with plans for adventure, leisure, or maximum financial gain.”

    That’s right Mr. Dunn! I enjoy my adventure, leisure and maximum financial gain! You should try it sometime! (But I bet you already have the financial gain, since you are an old, rich, white man in the upper echelons of your church’s leadership)

  6. Lincoln says:

    Mark E. Petersen’s book “The Way of the Master” has tons of quotes about multiplying and replenishing the earth with boatloads of spirit children. The chapter “Other Leaders Speak” is devoted entirely to quotes from past church leaders about this topic. Let’s be clear. HAVING BOATLOADS OF CHILDREN WAS HEAVILY EMPHASIZED IN MORMONISM. Whether it is emphasized or not would depend on whether “we teach that anymore.” Here are a few gems taken from this chapter:

    -Brigham Young-
    “It is the duty of every righteous man and woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can.”

    -Joseph F. Smith-
    “I regret, I think it is a crying evil, that there should exist a sentiment or a feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children.”

    -The First Presidency-
    “Married couples who, by inheritance and proper living, have themselves been blessed with mental and physical vigor are recreant to their duty if they refuse to meet the natural and rightful responsibility of parenthood.”

    -Melvin J. Ballard-
    “The greatest mission of woman is to give life, earth-life, through honorable marriage, to the waiting spirits, our Father’s spirit children who anxiously desire to come to dwell here in this mortal state… the ever-enduring happiness that shall come to the woman who fulfills the first great DUTY and mission that devolves upon her to become the mother of sons and daughters of God.”

    -John A. Widsoe-
    “It takes more than tow children to keep the population from decreasing… The birth rate of the more advanced nations is failing rapidly; while that of the more backward peoples is large and increasing.”

    -David O. McKay-
    “Marriage is for the purpose of rearing a family, and youth is the time to do it. I admire these young mothers with FOUR OR FIVE children around them now, still young, happy.”

    -Joseph Fielding Smith-
    “When a man and a woman are married and they agree, or covenant, to limit their offspring to TWO OR THREE, and practice devices to accomplish this purpose, they are guilty of iniquity which eventually must be punished.”

    Clearly, church leaders have always encouraged having large families, as that was the primary justification given for the introduction of plural marriage into the church. Any hedging or back-pedaling from this stance is pure BS.


  7. Phouchg says:

    The current CES Manaual for Religion 234-235 “Eternal Marriage” has some quotes on this topic.

    Keep in mind, this is the current curriculum being taught today at BYU, church universities, and institute classes worldwide.

  8. Phouchg says:

    link referenced above (cut and paste)

  9. aerin says:

    Thanks to everyone for their quotes and comments.

  10. FFG says:

    No pressure? Besides being almost “doctrine” it is definitely a large part of the Mormon culture. As kids, you are taught to feel sorry for people who don’t get married, have kids, or only have a few kids. For the most part, I feel that I have able to get rid of most of the silly ideas I was raised to believe, but this one is still engrained in me. Whenever I feel like 2 kids is enough for us, I have a wave of guilt come over me because that is such a small number.

  11. River Monkey says:

    I stumbled upon this message board and really wonder where the value is… That Mormons encourage large families in their church really isn’t all that crazy or earth-shattering. It seems the posters on this site either need to embrace their LDS beliefs or get over things and move on to whatever flavor of spirituality they prefer. Some of the posts were really mean-spirited and selfish. Children, both inside and outside of any religion are pretty amazing and inspiring. The post in response tothe maximu financial gain quote came across as immature and really denigrating to children. Aren’t there more productive things out there in the blogosphere for you folks? Find a new religion and work on showing respect and tolerance for others. Imagine, a website devoted to things people don’t like about hispanics, Catholics, Jews, homosexuals, old people etc… geesh.

  12. Hellmut says:

    Welcome to Main Street Plaza, River Monkey. I am sorry that you did not like this post.

    I have to say though that I find it inconsistent when you demand tolerance right after telling other adults how they ought to relate to their religion.

    I am not surprised that you are irritated. Let me just point out that the proper way to relate to one’s ignorance is to explore and ask questions rather than passing judgement.

    I assume that you failed to click the first link in Aerin’s post. If you had then you might have noticed that she is replying to another defender of the faith who denied that Mormon authorities ever indoctrinated Mormon believers with respect to family size.

    I hope that you will stick around a while to learn a little bit more about Mormons like you have never experienced them before.

  13. chrissy says:

    I am a 28 year old gal who is converting to Mormonism and this was my main issue. I really don’t have a major desire to become a mother. I have two wonderful nephews and a beautiful niece, I love them more than anything on this earth and also love that I can be the cool aunt. I love my life and am very active. I ride motorcycles, love to garden and have my own business. I also make candles for fun. I have also been a nanny and let me tell you children are selfish and take, take, take. I do love them but don’t want any of my own. I have expressed to my missionaries I am not planning on having children and they didn’t even bat an eyelash. so I don’t see the problem. Also my husband has never wanted children. he knew it when he saw all of his friends with kids having marital problems and he just doesn’t like kids in general. I love my heavenly father and don’t believe I have to have children of my own to make it to heaven. I have other callings.

  14. David Milo Pearson says:

    I am the father of nine children (yes, all with just one wife). While life always has its challenges, having children is a normal part of a normal life. Why someone would not want to have children is beyond me. My wife and I initally wanted between 10 and 14 children. We ended up with 9 (out of 15 pregnancies).

    A few years ago, I spoke on the importance of not only having children, but on having as many as the Lord would bless a couple with. We (my wife and I) did it on what I termed “the ‘planned parenthood’ plan”. (This is quite different from what ‘Planned Parenthood’, which is really ‘Planned (Non-)Parenthood” advocates. My mother often commented on how hard it was having my 2nd and 3rd oldest sisters only 11 months apart. So, I asked my wife before we got married if we might try to space them about 2 years apart each (playing it still ‘by ear’ all the same). She said it was. And, for the first eight of our children, that is how it panned out. However, the ninth (our last) came almost 5 years after her previous sibling.

    Was it hard on my wife? Certainly. Carrying babies and giving birth to them is never completely ‘easy’ nor without great risk. (Try getting life insurance on a pregnant woman – no insurance underwriter will allow it)!

    But, I being the 6th of my parents’ 8 children, and my wife being the 11th of her father’s 12 children (her mother was his 2nd wife – the first one committed adultery, and left him after giving him two children), we felt an obligation to “give back” to God who had graciously given us parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents, who most had large families.

    On my dad’s side, his father was the ninth child of nine children. And, his mother was the 13th child of thirteen children. Her mother died (from the effects of childbirth) before she turned one year old! No small sacrifice, that!

    My maternal grandfather, like me, was also the sixth of eight children (his next older and younger siblings both died – one at age 22 of a heart problem, his brother at age 17 from a ruptured appendix).

    My mother’s mother was from Australia. When she was conceived (out of wedlock), her parents were obliged to marry. Today, she probably would have been aborted. I’m glad that did not happen (or I would not be here)!

    My children have learned so much from each other. As (mostly) adults now, they do much to help and support each other.

    Having children was the very first commandment that I am aware of that God gave to mankind. While, yes, the exact number is not given, I would find one to be a ‘slacker’ who did not (with all their heart, might, mind and strength) try to keep to the spirit of the commandment to “be fruitful”.

    Life is a bigger challenge with more children. But, also, the blessings are much greater. The world does not have enough children, despite what all the agnostics, atheists, and those of “little faith” reiterate and regurgitate over and over and over say. I find this verse in Isaiah to be most instructive—

    18 For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited… —(Isaiah 45:18)

    (Certainly, he meant “to be inhabited” by his children—by humans)

    I also find this verse from the Savior’s mortal ministry to be instructive also on the topic of having children—

    13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

    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.
    (Mark 10:13–14)

    If he spoke to us personally now, I can hear him saying “SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN (BABIES) TO COME UNTO (YOU), and FORBID THEM NOT!”

    When we do NOT so, I am certain that he is MUCH DISPLEASED with us, even though we profess to be his disciples, as he was with his disciples THEN!

  15. D says:

    My husband and I are LDS. We have been pregnant multiple times and unsuccessfully become parents on earth. Because we do not have living children we are left out of a great many things and it honestly HURTS. I want kids… I am constantly trying to find resources for IVF and such as our income is limited. I don’t CHOOSE to not have a child and the blame is on me, I am the one unable to carry a child to full term without help. I am asked always why I don’t have children, didn’t I want them, don’t I know I’m getting older? Yes I do know and every year it hurts just a little bit more getting closer to being unable to have them..

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