Elder Neil L. Andersen: Children essential to God's eternal plan
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How many children and when to have them is between a husband and wife and the Lord, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve said during the Saturday afternoon session of conference. But the commandment to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" remains in force.
"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," he said. "The family is ordained of God. Families are central to our Heavenly Father's plan here on earth and through the eternities. ... We express deep gratitude for the enormous faith shown by husbands and wives, especially our wives, in their willingness to have children. 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."
Many voices in the world today marginalize the importance of having children or suggest delaying or limiting children in a family, he said. But individuals must remain true to that which God has commanded.
"Having young children is not easy," he said. "Many days are just difficult. ... Across the world, this is a time of economic instability and financial uncertainty. In April general conference President Thomas S. Monson said, 'If you are concerned about providing financially for a wife and family, may I assure you that there is no shame in a couple having to scrimp and save. It is generally during these challenging times that you will grow closer together as you learn to sacrifice and to make difficult decisions.'"
Elder Andersen spoke of the faith the prophets had in the scriptures in regards to starting a family. He spoke of Adam and Eve bearing their first child after leaving the Garden of Eden, of Lehi and Sariah acting in faith as they bore sons Jacob and Joseph while their family was travelling in the wilderness, and of the Savior of the world being born in a stable.
Because the bearing of children is a sensitive subject that can be very painful — sharing examples of righteous women who do not have the opportunity to marry and have a family, of 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 planned on having a large family but are blessed with a smaller family — individuals should not be judgemental with one another in this sacred and private responsibility, Elder Andersen said.
"We cannot always explain the difficulties of our mortality," he said. "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 in the eternities, [as] they keep the covenants they have made with God.'"
Families are central to God's eternal plan, Elder Andersen said. "I testify of the great blessing of children, and of the happiness they will bring us in this life and in the eternities."