Lesson 17: The Commandment to Multiply and Replenish the Earth

The Eternal Family Teacher Manual, 2015


Introduction

The commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is a vital part of Heavenly Father’s eternal plan and remains in force today. This lesson will help students see that they can be guided in their decisions about bringing children into the world as they study the words of living prophets and seek Heavenly Father’s guidance through prayer.

Background Reading

  • Neil L. Andersen, “Children,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 28–31.

  • Russell M. Nelson, Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless,” Ensign, Oct. 2008, 32–37.

Suggestions for Teaching

Genesis 1:27–28; 9:1; 35:11

The commandment to bear children remains in force

Write the following lines from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” on the board before class:

“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.”

Begin class by asking:

  • What are your thoughts as you consider these two sentences?

Invite students to search Genesis 1:27–28, Genesis 9:1, and Genesis 35:11, looking for names of the individuals whom God commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. You might encourage students to link these references in their scriptures, making a scripture chain. Make sure students understand that this commandment has been given in every gospel dispensation.

Display the following statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:

Elder Neil L. Andersen

“It is a crowning privilege of a husband and wife who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for these spirit children of God. We believe in families, and we believe in children.

“When a child is born to a husband and wife, they are fulfilling part of our Heavenly Father’s plan to bring children to earth” (“Children,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 28).

Emphasize the last sentence in this statement by presenting the following principle: When a husband and wife bring a child into the world, they are fulfilling part of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. Refer to the sentences on the board and ask:

  • Why do you think that the Lord, through His modern prophets, has repeated the commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth” in our modern times? (As an example, you might tell students that since 1960, the birthrate to married mothers in the United States of America has decreased by 45 percent.)

  • What are possible reasons why there is a trend for married couples to have fewer children? (Answers may include such things as lack of finances, finishing an education, and waiting to start a career.)

  • How can an understanding of God’s plan for His children help a husband and wife who are deciding when to have children and how many to have?

Explain that husbands and wives will receive blessings from God that will enable them to keep the commandment to bear children, even during difficult circumstances. Share the following experience from the life of Elder James O. Mason of the Seventy, as told by Elder Neil L. Andersen:

Elder Neil L. Andersen

“Elder Mason had [an] experience just weeks after his marriage that helped him prioritize his family responsibilities. He said:

“‘Marie and I had rationalized that to get me through medical school it would be necessary for her to remain in the workplace. Although this was not what we [wanted] to do, children would have to come later. [While looking at a Church magazine at my parents’ home,] I saw an article by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, [highlighting] responsibilities associated with marriage. According to Elder Kimball, one sacred responsibility was to multiply and replenish the earth. My parents’ home was [close to] the Church Administration Building. I immediately walked to the offices, and 30 minutes after reading his article, I found myself sitting across the desk from Elder Spencer W. Kimball.’ (This wouldn’t be so easy today.)

“‘I explained that I wanted to become a doctor. There was no alternative but to postpone having our family. Elder Kimball listened patiently and then responded in a soft voice, “Brother Mason, would the Lord want you to break one of his important commandments in order for you to become a doctor? With the help of the Lord, you can have your family and still become a doctor. Where is your faith?”’

“Elder Mason continued: ‘Our first child was born less than a year later. Marie and I worked hard, and the Lord opened the windows of heaven.’ The Masons were blessed with two more children before he graduated from medical school four years later” (“Children,” 29).

  • What impresses you about this experience?

Emphasize that being married is an essential part of keeping the commandment to bear children. Read the following statement from the family proclamation:

“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

  • What advantages do children have when they are born “within the bonds of matrimony”?

  • What thoughts and feelings do you have about helping Heavenly Father fulfill His plan by bringing children into this world?

1 Nephi 15:11; Doctrine and Covenants 29:6

Seeking the Lord’s guidance

Display the following statement from Elder Neil L. Andersen, and ask a student to read it aloud:

Elder Neil L. Andersen

When to have a child and how many children to have are private decisions to be made between a husband and wife and the Lord. These are sacred decisions—decisions that should be made with sincere prayer and acted on with great faith” (“Children,” 28; italics added).

  • What does it mean that these decisions should be “acted on with great faith”?

Ask students to study 1 Nephi 15:11 and Doctrine and Covenants 29:6 to learn some principles that husbands and wives could use when they are seeking answers to questions about when to have a child and how many children to have.

  • What principles did you find in these passages that can help husbands and wives decide when to have children and how many children to have? (Emphasize the following principle: As husbands and wives exercise faith and seek the Lord in prayer, He will guide them in their decisions about childbearing.)

  • Why do you think it is important for husbands and wives to counsel with the Lord on these matters?

Display the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“How many children should a couple have? All they can care for! Of course, to care for children means more than simply giving them life. Children must be loved, nurtured, taught, fed, clothed, housed, and well started in their capacities to be good parents themselves” (“The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 75).

  • How might Elder Oaks’s teachings help a couple determine how many children to have?

During this lesson, be sensitive to those students who may not have the opportunity to be parents in this life. The following statement from Elder Neil L. Andersen may be helpful:

Elder Neil L. Andersen

“The bearing of children can … be a heartbreaking subject for righteous couples who marry and find that they are unable to have the children they so anxiously anticipated or for a husband and wife who plan on having a large family but are blessed with a smaller family.

“We cannot always explain the difficulties of our mortality. Sometimes life seems very unfair—especially when our greatest desire is to do exactly what the Lord has commanded. As the Lord’s servant, I assure you that this promise is certain: ‘Faithful members whose circumstances do not allow them to receive the blessings of eternal marriage and parenthood in this life will receive all promised blessings in the eternities, [as] they keep the covenants they have made with God’ [Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 1.3.3]” (“Children,” 30).

Psalm 127:3; Doctrine and Covenants 59:6

The sanctity of life

Ask a student to read Psalm 127:3 aloud.

  • What does it mean that “children are an heritage of the Lord”? (Children are a gift from God.)

Read the following from the family proclamation: “We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.” Testify of this principle: When we understand that children are gifts from God, we better understand the sanctity of their lives. In many parts of the world, abortion is considered acceptable, and many millions of abortions are performed each year. To help students understand the Church’s policy on abortion, share the following statement and ask students to listen for circumstances when an abortion might be justified:

“Human life is a sacred gift from God. Elective abortion for personal or social convenience is contrary to the will and the commandments of God. … Latter-day prophets have denounced abortion, referring to the Lord’s declaration, ‘Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it’ (D&C 59:6). Their counsel on the matter is clear: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. Church members who encourage an abortion in any way may be subject to Church discipline.

“Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer” (Gospel Topics, “Abortion,” lds.org/topics).

  • Under what exceptional circumstances might an abortion be justified?

  • Even when those circumstances are present, what counsel should be sought by those considering an abortion?

Share the following statement to help students understand that adoption is an unselfish alternative to having an abortion:

“We … express our support of unwed parents who place their children for adoption in stable homes with a mother and a father. We also express our support of the married mothers and fathers who adopt these children.

“… Having a secure, nurturing, and consistent relationship with both a father and a mother is essential to a child’s well-being. When choosing adoption, unwed parents grant their children this most important blessing. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses the child, birth parents, and adoptive parents in this life and throughout the eternities” (First Presidency statement, Oct. 4, 2006, as cited in Ensign, Oct. 2008, 37).

As you conclude the lesson, share your testimony of the joy children have brought into your life. Encourage students to worthily prepare for the sacred opportunity of bringing children into this world.

Student Readings