I read recently that someone—not a member of the church—said there is a rule that Mormons have to have as many children as possible, even if they can’t afford them. This is entirely untrue. It is true that Mormons tend to have somewhat larger families, but they are not commanded to have large families unless that is what God tells them to do.
Mormons believe we lived with God before we were born. We were spirits there, and in order to gain our bodies and to have special experiences necessary for our eternal salvation, we need to come to earth. That means each spirit needs a family to come to. For this reason, Mormons are encouraged to have children if they are able to do so. However, this does not equate to having dozens of them. The church’s official statement on birth control says:
“Children are one of the greatest blessings in life, and their birth into loving and nurturing families is central to God’s purposes for humanity. When husband and wife are physically able, they have the privilege and responsibility to bring children into the world and to nurture them. The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is a private matter for the husband and wife.”
The statement includes a reminder to be certain children can be provided for—not in wealth, but with the essentials of life:
“Husband and wife are encouraged to pray and counsel together as they plan their families. Issues to consider include the physical and mental health of the mother and father and their capacity to provide the basic necessities of life for their children.
Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple. Elective abortion as a method of birth control, however, is contrary to the commandments of God.”
Mormons often do have somewhat larger families because they pray about how many children to have and trust God’s judgment. They also tend to be family-oriented. Because Mormons believe God intended families to last forever, not just during life, they see their children in a different light. They are building for eternity and so, not having as much discretionary income here, or having less time or a less prestigious career so they can spend more time with family seems to be less of a sacrifice. This life is a brief span in a three-part eternal life. What they do here prepares the pattern of life for the rest of eternity. The children they have will be theirs forever. This is a wonderful blessing and an incentive to make the sacrifices that come with parenthood.
Mormons usually spend a lot of time as a family. They have a family night once a week, daily prayer and scripture study as a family, church attendance together, and many other family-oriented activities. They can’t imagine Heaven without their families. Because they are encouraged to notice the blessings family life brings, they are more likely to enjoy a houseful of children and all the fun chaos that goes with it.
The rumor, then, is false. Parents are not told by commandment not to have children they can’t afford or care for. They aren’t given a set number of children to have. They are merely asked to help bring God’s children into the world as they can and to enjoy the life those children help them create. They are encouraged to look forward to a wonderful family reunion in Heaven.