Joseph Smith Prophecy (?)


Today I wound up on a panel discussing fertility decline in the US. From a comparative perspective, sub-replacement birth rates are a concern of the majority of nations in the world today, and not only the developed nations. China, Iran, Brazil, and many other nations that are less economically developed also have the same issue.

We bandied about whether social support for mothers was the key to imprving fertility rates, and of course the numbers show that's not the case. The most you can expect is about a 0.2 bump in fertility rates. All countries with the best support packages for mothers have sub-replacement birth rates. Some countries with generous support for mothers (such as Norway, Finland, and the Benelux nations) have lower birth rates than the US, which has virtually no support for mothers.

I'd argue that the issue of sub-replacement birth rates is not merely a temporal matter, though I hasten to add such rates have very significant temporal consequences for the nations involved. For example, China is attempting to become a new world hegemon, but its fertility is the lowest it's been since the 1960s when it experienced a great famine. Its working age (and military age) population is shrinking with every passing year.

So if there is a spiritual dimension to all of this, what would that be? I suggest that the sexual contract is in dire need of re-negotiation. There is no clearer sign that things have gotten very wrong in male/female relations than a global decline in fertility to sub-replacement levels. Women are choosing not to bear chldren. Given that women are rational, there must be something about the conditions under which they would be expected to conceive and bear children that either repels them or makes them anxious or even afraid. As we have seen, the issue is demonstrably not one solely of government support or its lack. The wealthiest, most generous nations all have sub-replacement birth rates.

I'd suggest instead that women do not see viable parenting partners in the men with whom they have relationships. Most men are marinated in porn on a daily basis--and this is not your father's porn. This is hard-core, violent porn that depicts the utter degradation of females. No wonder the rates of young women wanting to turn into men has skyrocketed--they are fleeing being female as if it were a house on fire. After seeing what men get off on every day in porn, why would any human being in their right mind want to be female? It's very telling that nations such as the UK are now having to pass laws that proclaim that strangling a woman to death during sex is still murder, and cannot be excused as an unintentional outcome of "rough sex."

In addition to sex itself, what marriage means (or doesn't mean) is also an issue. In some countries, marriage rates are at an all-time low. Why would a woman want to become pregnant with someone who is not willing to marry her? In other countries, marriage is still a very hierarchial, male-centered institution, with all burdens placed on the woman's shoulders. In an age where women can support themselves economically, why would they agree to be in such a marriage?

Now it may be very simplistic to say that we could regain fertility if men decided to shun pornography, and also embrace a companionate version of marriage in which there was real equality and burden-sharing. It may be simplistic, but I'm going to say it. If the sexual contract were re-negotiated so that sex became a act of love, not hate, and that men would prize companionate marriage, then I think a lot more women would have children, or more children. In fact, studies have shown that women are having fewer children than they say they want. That tells me the sexual contract as currently constituted is just not working. It must be re-negotiated, or the fall in fertility will only increase.

During the midst of all this discussion, someone mentioned that Joseph Smith had made a prophecy about these things. I tracked it down to a mention in 1890 in the Young Women's Journal, and I've attached the excerpt (the prophecy's mention is on p. 81). This is a recollection by one Sister Lillie Freeze, who stated, "We should post ourselves regarding the prophecies that have been predicted. I will mention one in particular that was uttered by the Prophet Joseph Smith, he said the time would come when none but the women of the Latter-day Saints would be willing to bear children." Now, I have no idea whether Sister Freeze's account is accurate. But her recollection is quite extraordinary in view of all we have been discussing. (And it is very true that Utah has the highest birth rate in the nation.)

Have CoJC members managed to pull of that re-negotiation of the sexual contract, and by so doing, have avoided the collapse of fertility among their membership? That's an interesting thought. Pornography use is considered a grave sin, though I have no figures on porn use among CoJC members. And certainly marriage--and chastity before marriage and fidelity after--are strong social norms within the community. Childbearing, too, has kept its meaning as a praiseworthy activity in emulation of the life's work of our Heavenly Parents, as part of our divine destiny.

This is certainly something to think about, isn't it? If Joseph Smith did make that prophecy, there's good reason to believe that CoJC women's fertility behavior might differ markedly from groups where the re-negotiation of the sexual contract has failed. Food for thought . . .