“The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”1
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, addressed a “shift in attitude about the purpose of marriage. More and more young people view marriage ‘as a couples relationship, designed to fulfill the emotional needs of adults, rather than an institution for bringing up children.’ …
“Another disturbing challenge to the family,” observed President Faust, “is that children are becoming less valued. In many parts of the world, people are having fewer children. Abortion is probably the clearest sign that couples do not want children. An estimated one-quarter of all pregnancies worldwide end by induced abortion.”2
Abortion is a two-edged sword. Not only does it encourage selfishness and the promiscuous use of the powers of procreation, this widespread practice often makes adoption more difficult for married couples who are unable to bear children of their own.
In 1991 the First Presidency issued a comprehensive statement on abortion. While recognizing certain “rare cases in which abortion may be justified,” they emphasized that “these are not automatic reasons for abortion” and “counseled people everywhere to turn from the devastating practice of abortion for personal or social convenience.”3
Bringing children into the world is certainly not convenient. Most often it involves physical pain followed by great sacrifice and selflessness. But the blessings of keeping God’s command to rear children are some of the sweetest blessings He offers. Indeed, in many ways parenthood gives us a foretaste of godhood.
As important as the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is, the Lord has made clear that we must demonstrate our obedience only within the marriage relationship. There are numerous reasons for this restriction, but two of the most significant are to discourage sexual promiscuity and to provide a stable and healthy family environment for children.
In most societies, bearing children out of wedlock has traditionally been considered an embarrassment and a disgrace. But in today’s world, where good is called evil and evil good (see Isa. 5:20), the stigma of nonmarital childbearing has largely vanished. Not only is this practice a sin in the eyes of heaven, but researchers have found out-of-wedlock birth to be associated with several risks for the baby. For instance, compared with children born to married couples, children born out of wedlock are more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome, suffer death due to injury, or eventually become juvenile offenders.
Children born to unwed parents and placed for adoption fare significantly better than those who are not adopted. They experience fewer learning problems, achieve higher vocational levels, and are less likely to receive government assistance as adults.4 It is obvious that bringing children into the world and raising them the Lord’s way results in spiritual and temporal blessings.
After the Lord commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful, and multiply,” He commanded them to “replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). The Hebrew word translated as replenish means “to fill.” For many years we have heard warnings about overpopulation and the devastating effects it can cause. While some areas of the world are experiencing a negative impact from extreme population density, the world as a whole is actually moving in the opposite direction. Indeed, research indicates that by the year 2040 world population will peak and begin to decline.5
Probably a more relevant issue than population density is how we use the resources God has given us to support the population now and in the future. “For the earth is full,” He said, “and there is enough and to spare. … If any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment” (D&C 104:17–18). “The enemy of human happiness as well as the cause of poverty and starvation is not the birth of children,” said Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “It is the failure of people to do with the earth what God could teach them to do if only they would ask and then obey.”6