Gospel living · Raising children

How many children do we want to have?

I feel this morning that I want to write about some very special things to my heart.  Its not often that I wake up with a very clear picture of what to blog about.

Andrew and I want to have a big family.  10 kids to put a number to it.  I like to say we want to have as many kids as possible, as soon as possible.

And it’s fine if you are gawking right now.  Most people do when we tell them.  This morning I feel it important to share our story.  I know that how many children to have and when to have them can be a sensitive subject.  Please know I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do.  I believe what the Brethren have often said: that it is between a husband, a wife, and the Lord to determine these things.  This story is just that: how my husband and I have sought the Lord’s guidance on these matters for our family.

One day while sitting on my bed in college, I was thinking about how many kids I wanted to have. Such thoughts usually meant I couldn’t sleep, and thinking about the far away future always quieted my mind down for some reason.

6, I thought was a good number.  4 didn’t seem quite enough, but 5 was an odd number, and I wanted an even number of kids.  But 6 was also a lot.  As my thoughts were playing back and forth, one of those thoughts came where the Holy Ghost teaches me.  The thought was, you are to multiply and replenish the earth. That’s all you need to know until you decide with your husband how many to have.

It was true. It wasn’t really my decision to make as a single woman with no current prospects of a husband. Why sit and plan my family out only to have it subject to change when my spouse becomes involved?  Why potentially have to deal with any kind of disappointment from a failed expectation.  What if he wanted less kids?  Would I feel sorrow for missing out on my planned children?  What if he wanted more?  Could I handle having a giant family?  I didn’t really want a giant family.  Maybe that was the point: to not settle into an ideal, so I could remain flexible in either direction of my comfort zone. I could see the wisdom in my prompting.  It was better for me to wait.  So I did. I just waited.

A couple months before Andrew and I started dating, he would call me on his drive home from Logan back to Lehi. Once a week, he’d go to Logan for shoeing appointments with old clients.  I remember sitting in my parked car one night as we chatted on the phone. The subject of children came up. He told me that he wanted to have 10 kids.

10!!!!??? My mind cracked in half. Here I was, crushing so hard on this man, wanting so much to have him be my husband, only to learn that in order for that to come true, I was going to need to be willing to have a family of 10 children! Holy Gina. This man is nuts. 10 kids is nuts. He then proceeded to tell me of the spiritual experience that accompanied that goal.

God taught him very specifically that he was supposed to have more children than he was originally willing to take on. During that learning process that lasted for months, he raised his number from 6 to 8, feeling that that would be doable, but still stretching. Then in the temple one day, the thought came, Maybe you are supposed to have even more children than you are wanting to have. So that day, he thought, 10.  He felt good about it. Settled into the idea over time. And never went back. “I don’t think that now after having the goal of 10 kids for so long that I could ever settle for anything less,” he said to me.

Yup. If I really wanted to marry this man, I was going to need to be willing to have 10 children. My mind was still racing.  10!!?

And do you know what came to mind at that moment? This is why I advised you not to pick a number, but to remember that you are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth.

“How many do you want to have?” he asked.

I smiled, while shaking my head at how this was coming together, “I’ve never settled on a number because the Lord taught me years ago there was no point in deciding until I met my husband. All I know is that we are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth.”

I’m not sure exactly at what point in our friendship-me-courting-him-him-not-yet-courting-me relationship this conversation took place, but I do know that after having it, thinking about the possibility of having 10 children was on my mind–a lot.

10 children? Do you know how many that is? I come from a family of 3 kids. I did’t even know how to comprehend a family of 10 kids. I wasn’t freaked out–anymore, anyways. At that point, I was more….shockedsurprisedoverwhelmed…in awe at the idea.

Months later, by time Andrew and I got engaged, the Lord had taught me many things. By then, I, too, looked at 10 kids as Andrew did: how could I have any less?

To those who knew me in high school and college, this is a big jump from who I was, right?  I’m the one that refused to babysit and climbed up on the counters just to avoid toddlers wanting me to play with them. Guys, let me throw in a disclaimer: children stIll scare me.  More accurately, other people’s children still scare me.  But since becoming a mother, I not only enjoy it, but I crave all my children.  I just want them all to be here.  But when it comes to babysitting other people’s children, I still get über-anxiety.  I hope that’ll go away someday…

So let me share with you the culminating lesson of all the lessons the Lord taught me between the time of having this conversation with Andrew and my marriage that really opened my heart to having a big family.  Because really, of all people to feel confident about taking on 10 children, I am not the one I would have picked.  But as the scriptures say, “[The word] had had a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword” (Alma 31:5).

While reading in D&C 132:19, I read “if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood;” (So if a man and a wife are married in the temple by one who holds the sealing power of the priesthood) “and it shall be said unto them—” (then it lists all the blessings that couple will receive:) “Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths— (It keeps going and then explains what it means to obtain our exaltation and glory:) “they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.”

The glory which we shall receive when we obtain celestial glory is to have children (seeds) forever and ever.  I began to realize that having a big family after this life was one of God’s sweetest blessings waiting for us.  God has said, “This is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).  What is the work and glory of heaven? Taking care of children.  A big part of wanting to go to the Celestial Kingdom is to have the life that God has.  And His life is about His family, His children, His lots of children and helping them all reach their potential.  And for me, the message was this: learning how to be a mother to lots of children now will help me be better prepared to be a mother of a gargantuan heavenly family after this life.

And suddenly, 10 children didn’t seem like so many.  They seemed like not enough.

I knew this lesson was a profound one.  But I had no idea that the Lord had so much more to teach me about what it really means when it says, “children are an heritage to the Lord” (Psalms 127:3) and about what it means to be a good mother.  I wish I could write about everything I’ve learned.  But that’s maybe for another day.  But I will say this: Motherhood has been the hardest and most rewarding journey.  It sounds cliche, but it’s rich.  I know I have challenges ahead, but I’m grateful to know that the Lord will teach me, change me, and help me have the capacity and abilities necessary to nurture my many as He does to His thousands of millions.

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