Good news for the famous Duggar family of Arkansas: they’re expecting baby #18! This, of course, has me musing again on family size, demography, how to live well, and the meaning of life itself.
As I searched for more information about the Duggars for this entry, I came across an editorial in a major newspaper that just excoriated them for…well, the author rattled off the usual litany of hysterical left-wing stereotypes. I was disgusted, but then reminded of an experience I had recently:
One afternoon last year, I went to pick up my two older kids after school, and took my two younger kids with me. As we crossed the playground, a little boy with his mom noticed us and asked her if they could have another baby. She politely told him no because, quote, “If I had another baby I’d kill myself.” She then winked at me as if we’d just shared a joke.
My wife and I are now expecting our fifth baby.
Look, I’m not going to say that everybody needs to have ten kids. Different temperaments and circumstances may dictate smaller family sizes. But the fact is that birth rates are dropping faster than the dollar and the quality of modern media combined, and the only legitimate explanation is immaturity: a desire to have more fun stuff for ourselves and less work from being a parent.
Too many of us accept our fears of “growing up” and refuse to commit to a course that would let us grow up. Too many Latter-day Saints, for that matter, take the Church’s patient reluctance to dictate how many children people should have as a green light to have as few as is convenient.
How much of the indignation over Julie Beck’s “Mothers Who Know” talk was founded simply on not wanting to accept that some of our “lifestyle” choices are contrary to what is best in the long run? When Sister Beck said, “Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are ‘becoming less valued,’ in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children,” she was only echoing the great Proclamation on the Family, which plainly states: “God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-775-27,00.html
Back to the Duggars, look how much joy they’ve invited into their lives, and how much good they’ve brought into the world! Such discipline, wholesomeness, and energy is exactly the direction into which we should all be moving with the time given us here on Earth. “Drains on our resources,” petty critics would scoff. Nuts to that! These kids are each raised to be the kind of productive citizens that will make the world of the future a far better place. A thousand “average” city families with their total of fifty kids between them produces the real burden: will the spoiled, trendy mainstreamers be the ones to preserve and improve our society for the future?
This page from their website (which you should definitely visit!) shows us how to live the best life possible more clearly than nearly anything else I’ve ever read: http://www.duggarfamily.com/faq.html
Reading about the Duggars reminds me of another family that inspires me: the Abasantas. Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Seventy introduced us all to them at the October 2004 General Conference:
A few months ago I was assigned to preside at the Talisay Philippines Stake conference. During the Sunday general session, I began my talk by thanking the congregation for their reverence. While speaking, I looked down to my left and saw a very large family sitting a couple of rows back from the front of the chapel. I was impressed to point them out and use them as an example of a family who understood and lived the principle of reverence. The parents were sitting there surrounded by many, many reverent children.
Upon the completion of the meeting, we had the wonderful opportunity to meet the Abasanta family. The more I learned about them, the more I was impressed with the fact that they truly understood what it meant to keep covenants and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Brother Lani and Sister Irenea Abasanta joined the Church 22 years ago. Together, they have had 17 children. Among the 17 children is one set of triplets. We all know that raising a family is not an easy task anywhere in the world, and the Philippines is no exception. The Abasanta family is a living example that it can be done, and it can be done in the right way.
The successes they have enjoyed raising their children in the Church are made manifest in many ways. A family of 19 sitting reverently through Church meetings is just one example.
Another example is illustrated by how they work hard and how they work together to meet their everyday financial needs. Brother Abasanta works as an electrician. Sister Abasanta, with the help of her daughters, makes and sells jewelry out of their home. Together, they have succeeded in providing the necessities of life for their family.
Even more important than their example in supporting their large family financially is how they teach their children to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their regular family home evenings play an essential part in the teaching of their family. Referring to their family home evenings, Brother Abasanta explained, “First we discuss any problems we might have in the family and how we can become more united; then there is a spiritual thought or lesson; then we play games.”
At a recent family home evening, Brother Abasanta used the Liahona magazine as a tool to help him teach his children not to spend so much time watching television but instead to use that time doing something of greater worth, like homework or reading the scriptures. Over the years during family home evenings the children have been taught to practice being reverent. Because their children have been taught to be reverent in their home, it is easier for them to demonstrate reverence at church on Sunday.
Another example of living the gospel and keeping their covenants is the priority they have given in teaching their children the importance of paying an honest and full tithing. Brother Abasanta stated: “We teach our children that the food we have is a direct result of paying tithing. When our kids have their own work, we make sure to tell them that they need to pay their tithing. It’s hard to provide for so many children, but when I pay my tithing faithfully and honestly, it’s not hard at all. We just trust in the Lord 100 percent that if we pay an honest tithing, we’ll be able to eat daily.”
Remember that I mentioned that Brother and Sister Abasanta have 17 children. Now, let me tell you about the triplets. They happen to be all boys. They happen to be 19 years old. Their names are Ammon, Omni, and Omner. Yes, you guessed it. All three are serving the Lord as faithful and hard-working full-time missionaries. Ammon is serving in the Philippines Baguio Mission, Omni is serving in the Philippines Davao Mission, and Omner is serving in the Philippines Manila Mission.
Now I do not want you to get the impression that the Abasanta family is perfect. None of us are perfect. However, by trying their best to live the commandments and keep their covenants, the Abasanta family is able to enjoy the blessings of the Lord in their lives.
Here’s a radical thought: instead of lethargically riding out Western Civilization’s voluntary extinction, how about we choose to live for God and family rather than fleeting pleasures, produce families that are large and strong enough to make a positive difference, and, in the process, live a life so full that it can eclipse the paltry subsistence of a hundred of the media’s carbon copy “individuals”? Such rewards await those who will put away childish things… and dedicate their lives to children.