“Editorial: Population, Pollution, and You,” Ensign, June 1971, 129
Population, Pollution, and You
The voices of those who would abort, sterilize, and tax in an effort to control population in the world are increasing in pitch and emotionalism. A particularly shrill note was sounded in an article appearing in the May Reader’s Digest entitled “Should You Have Another Baby?”
This is called to your attention because of the great circulation and influence of the Reader’s Digest. More than 29 million copies of that magazine go throughout the world each month in thirteen languages. At least 17 million of those copies are circulated in the United States and Canada. But maybe more important than the figures is the esteem in which the Digest is held. There is no other regularly printed publication that has such great impact on so many people. And in most instances the magazine stands for principles with which Latter-day Saints identify.
This leads to a very real concern that the ideas expressed in the article mentioned may have a credible sound. Many of you who read the Ensign carefully are aware that in the May issue there was an article dealing with the myths and exaggerations surrounding the problem of population increases in the world.
Entitled “Realities of the Population Explosion” (page 18) and authored by Dr. Philip F. Low, professor of agronomy at Purdue University and president of the Indianapolis Stake, this piece was a reasonable, well-documented answer to the concerns expressed by those who see the earth on the verge of extinction from over-population. Although most of the news media of the world echo the voices of doom, Dr. Low provided ample evidence that many of the real experts do not see the problem in such a light.
Much might be gained by a rereading of Dr. Low’s article (or a first-time reading), especially if you have seen the Digest article. It seems to us that the Digest piece, which was, incidentally, condensed from another magazine, represents the kind of journalism that we cannot afford in today’s world. The article starts with a basic premise, continues with an emotional incident, and quotes only those “experts” who support the original idea. The introductory subhead suggests that the question of additional children should be decided with the head as well as the heart. This implies that what follows will provide factual information upon which a rational opinion can be formed. Unfortunately, that kind of information is not presented. How can any person make an intelligent decision with only one side of the story?
The position of the Lord on this matter has always been clear. In a letter dated April 14, 1969, the First Presidency reiterated it: “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.”
That letter added, “… we feel that men must be considerate of their wives who bear the greater responsibility not only of bearing children, but of caring for them through childhood. To this end the mother’s health and strength should be conserved and the husband’s consideration for his wife is his first duty. … It is our further feeling that married couples should seek inspiration and wisdom from the Lord that they may exercise discretion in solving their marital problems, and that they may be permitted to rear their children in accordance with the teachings of the gospel.”
Latter-day Saints, or for that matter all thinking persons, should not be panicked into any movement that would curtail or penalize the right to bring God’s spirit children into this world.
At the same time, there is a very special obligation to do everything possible to create an environment in the world that will be warm and hospitable for these new spirits. The problems of population are mostly the problems of our abuse of the land, the air, and the water. It may be that more of us should work more vigorously to preserve and replenish the earth that God has given us.