Most Christians believe that children are a blessing from God and that they play a significant role in God’s plan. Even so, American Christians are having fewer children today than they did just two generations ago for various reasons, including declining fertility rates. However, historically members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have had larger families than members of other Christian denominations and this continues to hold true today. So why do Latter-day Saints, on average, choose to have larger families?
Latter-day Saints and Family
The family is the basic unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the Church believe that we lived with God before we were born. We were spirits there and to gain our bodies and to have experiences necessary for our eternal salvation, we need to come to earth. They believe the mortal experience is a necessary part of their progression in trying to become like God and Christ—and in their efforts to gain salvation. They hold that Christ’s atoning sacrifice pays the price for sins, but that mortality also offers experiences that mold the soul into a potentially more holy and Christian person—something imperative if we hope to dwell with God for eternity. Therefore, many Mormon parents regard it as their responsibility to have children in order to create physical bodies to come to earth in order to fulfill God’s plan.
The Church strongly encourages integrity, loyalty, purity, and fidelity, and the children should grow up being taught these values. For much of the 19th century Mormons practiced polygamy (or plural marriage). “However, the practice ended in 1890, when then President Wilford Woodruff, issued the Manifesto, and announced to the Church that they would submit to newly established U.S. laws forbidding plural marriage.” Still, some fringe break-offs, not affiliated with mainstream Mormonism, choose to practice polygamy.
Latter-day Saints and Their Kids
The Doctrine of the Latter-day Saints states that Latter-day Saints have a spiritual responsibility to bring forth children into the earth. They believe that we are all eternal beings, and there’s a point in which we lived with God as His spirit children. So, to become like God the Father, you must become mortal by being born and living with earthly parents. With them as your earthly guides, they will show you love and give you a home.
Latter-day Saints and Birth Control
Some Latter-day Saints choose to use birth control while others choose not to. It’s a private decision among couples and not a debate in the Church. Although they can practice family planning, one action that the Church strongly forbids is abortion. Even though Latter-day Saints tend to have slightly bigger families, it doesn’t imply that they must have kids. This idea is misleading since every believer has the right to have a family they can afford to provide for and maintain.
Are Latter-day Saints Obligated to Have Large Families?
Latter-day Saints believe the choice to bear and rear children is a sacred and personal one. There is no doctrine of the Church that prescribes the number of children a couple should have. Agency, or the ability to choose (and the accountability for our choices) is a critical tenet of their faith. There are many Latter-day Saint couples as well as single individuals who desperately long for children and family. Others consider personal circumstances like the health of the mother or financial restrictions that may influence family planning decisions.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a family-centered religion, perhaps the most family-centered in the world, since they believe that the family can be united in the eternities. Because they are encouraged to notice the blessings family life brings, Latter-day Saints are more likely to enjoy a houseful of children and all the fun chaos that goes with it.