Earlier today, one of our sons forwarded a question from a friend about the temple endowment. In substance, the question was, “Why does God say multiply and Replenish the earth?” As you know, I've written about this with Scott Strong before, but here are my thoughts today:
The First Commandment:
“Multiply and replenish.” Through the years, Mom and I have been accused of taking that first commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth” totally upon ourselves without leaving room for anyone else. I promise that was never our intent. We were having our family back in the day when birth control pills were first introduced. We were warned by the world’s leading social scientists and astute demographers that if the birth rate continued unchecked mankind would run out of space on the planet.
Of course, this “zero population” movement we were exposed to in our young married life was nothing more than another of Satan’s lies.
Now all these years later, the cries of "overpopulation" and "the depletion of resources" are still as shrill as ever and it is taking its toll. I checked the Internet for the latest numbers to see what’s happened since the last time I checked. I know this may seem off topic from the question, but it is the very essence of the answer you seek.
The latest data from the Population Reference Bureau indicate there are currently twenty countries in the world with negative or zero natural population growth. This is unprecedented in human history!
Negative or zero natural population growth means these countries have more deaths than births or an even number of deaths and births. These data do not include impacts of immigration or emigration. Even including immigration over emigration, only one of the twenty countries (Austria) is expected to grow between 2006 and 2050.
Ukraine has the highest decrease in the natural birth rate, with a natural decrease of 0.8% each year! It is expected to lose 28% of their population between now and 2050 (from 46.8 million now to 33.4 million in 2050).
Russia and Belarus are not far behind with a 0.6% natural decrease. It is estimated now that Russia will lose 22% of its population by 2050. That’s a loss of more than 30 million people (from 142.3 million today to 110.3 million in 2050).
Japan is the only non-European country in the list and it has a 0% natural birth increase and is expected to lose 21% of its population by 2050 (shrinking from 127.8 million to a mere 100.6 million in 2050). The streets of Tokyo won’t be as crowded in a few decades as they are today!
Here's the list of the countries with negative natural increase or zero negative increase in population and the number after the semicolons indicate where they will be by 2050:
Ukraine: 0.8% natural decrease annually; 28% total population decrease by 2050
Russia: -0.6%; -22%
Belarus -0.6%; -12%
Bulgaria -0.5%; -34%
Latvia -0.5%; -23%
Lithuania -0.4%; -15%
Hungary -0.3%; -11%
Romania -0.2%; -29%
Estonia -0.2%; -23%
Moldova -0.2%; -21%
Croatia -0.2%; -14%
Germany -0.2%; -9%
Czech Republic -0.1%; -8%
Japan 0%; -21%
Poland 0%; -17%
Slovakia 0%; -12%
Austria 0%; 8% increase
Italy 0%; -5%
Slovenia 0%; -5%
Greece 0%; -4%
The effect on the economies of those countries has been devastating. Russia has now begun offering cash incentives for childbirth! Without the replenishment of population at least to the level ratio of 1:1, there are not enough “worker bees” to sustain an aging population and the economies will shrink. What is America’s destiny? Trending in that direction.
The words of the temple marriage covenant have never been rescinded and are easily remembered by anyone who’s witnessed a sealing ordinance: “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth,” but seldom do we focus on what comes next – “that you may have joy and rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As Mom and I have learned, there is nothing to compare with the blessing of a righteous posterity in your old age. It equates to a literal fulfillment of “joy and rejoicing.” We don’t have to wait for the morning of the first resurrection – we can experience it here and now, and we are living proof.
This is the period of the earth’s temporal existence when modern society sees those two words, “multiply” and “replenish” as antiquated and irrelevant. It is important to note the Lord’s meaning of “replenish.” In Hebrew (see footnote at the bottom of page 2 in Genesis Chapter 1 under verse 28c), that word is translated as “fill.” We are told the earth was created to “fill the measure of its creation” in the 88th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, and that it would be crowned with celestial glory (verse 19). That ultimate destiny is accomplished by one eternal family doing its part at a time, to “multiply and replenish” the earth. Now that we’re done with child bearing, there’s plenty of work left to do for others.
Here’s the irony: Those who curtail their families for selfish reasons (careers and money are the usual reasons) claim those who are obedient to this command are really the selfish ones. But staying on the Lord’s side of that line, this seminal truth remains in force:
I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment. (D&C 104:16–18).
Selfishness underlies many of the reasons we are not obedient to God's commands. Because of selfishness we rob ourselves of the very blessings the commandments were designed to provide. It seems the greatest opportunity to learn eternal values and to achieve heavenly potentials, lies in the possibilities associated with the covenant responsibility and the privilege to create bodies for Heavenly Father’s spirit children. We believe and do what we can to further the eternal plan, or we don’t and end up thwarting it. What I have learned as a father is that the spirits who have come into our home in physical bodies we have prepared for them are really in every sense our brothers and sisters who were awaiting their chance for mortality. Without question, each has been more valiant, more intelligent, and more amazing than we ever were. It is humbling to think they were held in reserve to come forth in these last days. It is an inestimable privilege to be their parents.
And they said: “Amongst His earliest commands to Adam and Eve, the Lord said: ‘Multiply and replenish the earth.’ He has repeated that command in our day. He has again revealed in this, the last dispensation, the principle of the eternity of the marriage covenant. . .
“The Lord has told us that it is the duty of every husband and wife to obey the command given to Adam to multiply and replenish the earth, so that the legions of choice spirits waiting for their tabernacles of flesh may come here and move forward under God’s great design to become perfect souls, for without these fleshly tabernacles they cannot progress to their God-planned destiny. Thus, every husband and wife should become a father and mother in Israel to children born under the holy, eternal covenant.
“By bringing these choice spirits to earth, each father and each mother assume towards the tabernacled spirit and towards the Lord Himself by having taken advantage of the opportunity He offered, an obligation of the most sacred kind, because the fate of that spirit in the eternities to come, the blessings or punishments which shall await it in the hereafter, depend, in great part, upon the care, the teachings, the training which the parents shall give to that spirit.
“No parent can escape that obligation and that responsibility, and for the proper meeting thereof, the Lord will hold us to a strict accountability. No loftier duty than this can be assumed by mortals.”
The second commandment:
“Thou shalt not eat of it.” In Genesis 1:28, Moses 2:28 and Abraham 4:28 we are given the first commandment. The second command was they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
It seems, once again in Sunday School class, we are reminded it was “impossible” for Adam and Eve to obey both of these contradictory commands. (Genesis 1:28; 2:16–17). However, if the metaphor is really about each of us, as if we were Adam and Eve, there really is no contradiction is there? Adam and Eve had to partake of the "forbidden" fruit in order to multiply. But you and I don’t need to. We are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, and we are required to avoid partaking of that which has been forbidden. You and I are capable of keeping both of these commandments simultaneously. It’s an interesting reality, isn’t it?
We all have the very same two options as Adam’s and Eve’s posterity. When we kneel at the altar in the temple to be sealed and enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, we are encouraged to keep both commandments, and they are not contradictory are they?
Our first option under the command to multiply and replenish is to be self-serving and to procrastinate having our families until we’re “ready.” “Translate” that any way you wish.
The second option is to sacrifice the luxury and ease of mortality so that our children can be born and grow toward their own exaltation. The choice, the “options” are very straight forward: To have a family or not to have a family. Adam made the choice: "I will partake that man may be!" And we do not partake that man may be born under the covenant. Interesting juxtaposition.
The tree didn’t have death in it. But disobedience did, and produced the first death. Today disobedience produces the second, or spiritual, death. As he often does for me, the Apostle Paul sums it all up nicely:
Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. (2 Peter 1:5–10).
So the offer stands from the Lord: Come unto me and freely partake of all the virtues, fruits and gifts of the Spirit. The fulness of the gospel is here among us, today and forever. By partaking of the fulness our calling and election may be made sure. We are enjoined to get involved. True religion is not merely a spectator sport and a theological exercise in dueling Christian doctrines. We are encouraged to be "anxiously engaged" in bringing to pass "much righteousness," not only in the world, but in our own lives. (D&C 58:27). We are commanded to "seek. . . earnestly the best gifts." (D&C 46:8).
That’s how we stay on hallowed ground on the Lord’s side of the line.