The incredible shrinking Mormon American family

Religion News Service | 6/15/2019 | Staff
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U.S. Mormons still have more children than other Americans do, but their families are not as large as they used to be.

First, let’s look at fertility in previous generations. According to research from the 2016 Next Mormons Survey (NMS), today’s Mormon adults grew up in families of 4.02 children.

Average—and - Year - Example - Data - 1980s

This was higher than the national average—and depending on the year, sometimes significantly so. For example, we have LDS and national data from the early 1980s that indicates that when Americans as a whole had a total fertility rate of 1.81 children, Mormons were having an extra kid and a half: a 3.31 fertility rate. Here’s what that looks like:

Mormons, it seems, held out past the time other Americans began to routinely use contraception.

Anti-contraception - Messages - LDS - Leaders - Members

Much of this has to do with the unambiguous anti-contraception messages LDS leaders were sending to members even after the Pill had been legalized. In the 1960s and 1970s, LDS leaders still regularly spoke out against birth control. In 1969, for example, the First Presidency counseled church members as follows:

We seriously regret that there should exist a sentiment or feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children. We have been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth that we may have joy and rejoicing in our posterity.

Husband - Wife - Health - Vigor - Impurities

Where husband and wife enjoy health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity, it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control will reap disappointment by and by.

Here’s the Joseph F. quote from a century ago, with the italicized parts being the fiery rhetoric that the First Presidency quietly dropped in the 1969 version:


I regret, I think it is a crying evil, that...
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