World Population and God

May 23, 2010    By: Geoff J @ 1:47 pm   Category: Life

As far as I can tell our scriptures don’t say anything specifically relating to world population. But don’t worry because wikipedia does. Here are a couple of interesting graphs from the world population wiki:

As you can see, there are a LOT more humans living on this planet now than ever before. In the last 60 or so years the population of the earth went from about 2.5 billion people to now approaching 7 billion. And the wiki indicates that the population of the earth currently grows by more than 200,000 people every day.

I am frankly not sure at all how this population boom on the earth might fit into the Mormon narrative. However I must grudgingly admit that one way it might fit into a popular Mormon narrative is that it very well could be seen as evidence that the Mad Max Mormons are right. I don’t want them to be right of course, I want the Star Trek Mormons to be right, but the larger the population of the earth gets the higher the chances seem to be that either resources will get scarce and humans will start killing each other in massive numbers through world wars or that the earth itself will strike back and significantly reduce the human population through natural disasters and/or disease. None of those possibilities are at all appealing.

I must admit that considering the “Saturday’s Warriors” 1970’s attack on the concept of zero population it would be kind of ironic if the apocalypse were brought on by rampant population growth though…

Any thoughts on how the reality of population growth and the narratives of Mormonism intersect?


  1. 1. Jared Diamond has done a good job putting some data behind dangers of overpopulation, especially when considering history and the collapse of civilizations in his Pulitzer Prize winning book “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. That book and his others books like “Collapse” are some pretty interesting books on the subject.

    2. It has been my experience Church leadership claims this will not be a problem.

    3. It looks like the birth rates around the world are naturally dropping so maybe this is why it won’t be a problem. This TED Talk gives some very interesting statistics on the subject and is worth watching.

    This blog has done a great job analyzing data. Thanks for that!

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — May 23, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

  2. It is a cruel reality, but over-population is a self correcting problem and always has been. It might not “correct” anytime in the near future, but the need to be fed, clothed, and housed on a planet with technically limited physical resources tends to put a damper on the prospect of infinite population growth. The wildcard is technological change, which can drastically increase the world’s carrying capacity.

    The other major factor is the tendency for economic development to lead to falling birth rates, in some cases drastically so. A century from now the world is much more likely to be facing the problem of too few children rather than too many. A number of countries are there already. Of course the practical problem with too few children is the difficulty in supporting a larger number of elderly.

    Comment by Mark D. — May 23, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

  3. Joseph: It looks like the birth rates around the world are naturally dropping

    According to these growth charts the population in Europe is expected to shrink and the population in North America are expected to remain fairly flat. Most of the population growth is projected in Africa, Asia, and to a lesser extent Latin America.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 23, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

  4. A few minutes ago, I asked my daughters what they talked about in Primary today. They talked about Pharaoh ordering the murder of all the male Israelite babies. So I asked, “Okay, but what did you learn?”

    My oldest (9) replied, “How to limit population growth.”

    Comment by BrianJ — May 23, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  5. BrianJ, LOL!

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — May 23, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

  6. Apocalypse is rarely brought about by too few people.

    But think. If we had a city with the population density of Paris (and presumably providing a similar infrastructure as Paris) how large would it have to be to fit the entire world population in it?

    Assume that the real population of the earth is 20 billion.

    It would take (rounding up) 8700 square kilometers. Or a City 93 miles to a side.

    The entire population of the world could fit in a “Paris” that would fit in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. With the rest of the world vacant, except for tourists.

    Just for perspective.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — May 24, 2010 @ 5:13 am

  7. To some unnamed commenter above, the amount of space a human takes has nothing to do with the sustailablity of life on the planet, as each human needs food, and water at a minimum. These are the determining factors, not simple human size. We are reaching peak oil. We are beginning to see problems with water (see the entire continent of Australia for an example, or Bangladesh, for a different, but even more devistating situation.)

    Where would these presumed Parisians get their food and water? I first heard this calculation as a freshman at BYU, thought it one of the stupidest things I had ever heard, and have not changed my mind. well, there are stupider things out there, but not by much.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 5:51 am

  8. This from Wikipedia:

    “There is wide variability both in the definition and in the proposed size of the Earth’s carrying capacity, with estimates ranging from 1 to 1000 billion.”


    Comment by Jack — May 24, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  9. djinn,

    Why is Stephen M (Ethesis) unnamed in your response?

    I agree with you though that the Paris density example is lacking and oversimplified to say the least. Food, clean water, clean air, waste disposal, etc all need to be dealt with somehow.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 8:20 am

  10. “Where would these presumed Parisians get their food and water?”

    From the approximately 148,000,000km2 of uninhabited land area.

    Comment by Jack — May 24, 2010 @ 8:21 am

  11. I guess the real question is if the rest of the world were inhabitable and farm-able why would we all choose to live right on top of each other. I assumed the only reason to jam everyone in together would be out of necessity.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 8:35 am

  12. I love how reality gets in the way of our preconceived notions of reality. My view of Mormon theology is flexible enough to apply it to whatever happens in reality. Thus if there are 1 trillion people on the earth, then that’s the way it is. It has no bearing on my faith in God because it’s not essential to my faith in God. Neither are any of the other narratives we choose to use to describe the world around us, including that Joseph Smith “translated” the Book of Mormon, which isn’t exactly accurate of the process he used.

    How many things do we assume about this world?

    Comment by Dan — May 24, 2010 @ 9:02 am

  13. Only a fraction of the world is farmable, of course. There’s deserts, there’s mountains, there’s areas without the necessary topsoil (the Canadian Shield), there’s plenty of areas without water….. the list goes on.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  14. It seems to me the narratives of overpopulation and Mormonism are orthogonal; see Stephem M (Ethesis)’s comment for an example.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 10:34 am

  15. djinn,

    I agree that the narratives of overpopulation and Mormonism certainly aren’t natural companions. But Mormonism assumes that God is managing the events on earth at least to some degree. Plus there are a lot of (fairly vague) prophesies in Mormonism that necessarily are affected by world population growth or loss. In this discussion I am just trying to see if others have given the pairing much thought.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 10:55 am

  16. I think it sheds light on the claim that Joseph “has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.”

    Depending on how long it goes until the second coming, it very well could end up being the case that 99.9% of all people ever born on earth were born after 1830.

    Comment by Eric Russell — May 24, 2010 @ 6:11 pm

  17. The amazing thing of the history of the population of humanity is how relatively small things needed to be invented or discovered in order for humanity to be able to feed and house over six billion people. Basic sanitation, basic plumbing, advances in farming, and so on.

    Comment by Dan — May 24, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  18. Actually, Dan, the relatively small thing that was invented to allow the world to hold almost 7 billion people is how to mine and use cheap energy; i.e., coal, oil, and natural gas.

    I have thought about this issue Geoff J, talked to people, read, and it is clear that a Mormon simply cannot care about overpopulation for very very basic reasons. Mormon women, as you well know, are encouraged to have as large of families as they can. A bigger family = greater righteousness. This is not debatable.

    Such behaviours do not allow worrying about (or even considering the possibility of) overpopulation, because then big Mormon families would be contributing to a world problem, not making the world a better place.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  19. I’ve been a member of the Church my whole life and I’ve never heard anyone encourage women to have as large of families as they can. Since I’m only 26, I can maybe assume that this must have been much more common in past decades.

    Still, it sounds very, very foreign to me. My parents used contraception to control the amount of children that they had, and when they felt they had enough, Mom got surgery to prevent further pregnancies. So the whole “bigger family = greater righteousness” thing doesn’t even make sense to me.

    Comment by Syphax — May 24, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  20. It must be one of those things that people say that people say but don’t actually say. Or something. Kind of like saying “don’t just stand there, DO SOMETHING,” which I don’t think anyone actually says.

    Comment by Syphax — May 24, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  21. djinn: Mormon women, as you well know, are encouraged to have as large of families as they can. A bigger family = greater righteousness. This is not debatable.

    Perhaps in the 70’s this was true. In the last 20 years it is not.

    But even if Mormon families averaged seven children these days it would not have any significant effect on world population. Even in the US it would not make any significant dent in the population trends as overall North American birth rates continue to decline. Overpopulation on a global scale is reportedly going to be almost entirely driven by poor emerging countries in Africa, Asia, and to a lesser extent Latin America according to the data in that wiki.

    Now that I think about it, I suspect that we don’t talk about the risks of overpopulation much in the church because it is one of those meta-issues that we don’t have a lot of control over as a church and thus prefer to leave in God’s hands. It does seem to me though that Mark D’s point in #2 is a good one. As I mentioned in the post, I hope we can figure out ways to address the issue in a healthy way rather than having wars or natural calamities making the corrections for us.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  22. It’s hard now for even Mormons to have large families unless they are rich. The car seat rule and the practical limitations that imposes alone limits a lot. (So says the man with what he thought was a large expensive SUV that he probably can’t fit a 3rd car seat into)

    Comment by Clark — May 24, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

  23. Mormons have about four children/family, about double the national average; I assume this isn’t just some random accident.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

  24. Interesting stat djinn. Can you tell us more about it? Where does it come from, which generations was it sampling, etc.

    Also, how is that related to your rather outrageous claim that in Mormonism “A bigger family = greater righteousness”?

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

  25. I simply can’t believe that you’re challenging my statement that women with more children are seen as being more righteous. Just ask a couple. I will never forget the look of awe on everyone’s face when I was introduced to a woman when she she told us her mother had 16 children. Inifinte stories about the one more child even though the mother’s life was at stake, Pres. Benson’s statement to not put off having a family for such worldly pursuits as finishing college, It’s absolutely ludicruous that you are denying this basic principle of the gospel.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

  26. Wed. Feb. 16, 2005 PROVO — College students should not put off creating families until they have completed all of their studies, an LDS Church apostle said Sunday.

    Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also reminded young adult members of a church’s family proclamation that declares marriage to be a union of a legally wedded man and woman.

    Elder Nelson made the statements during a Church Education System fireside broadcast around the world and translated into 28 languages.

    Using examples from his life, Elder Nelson, a surgeon and medical researcher, said he and his wife struggled financially early in his career while he earned medical degrees.

    By the time he set up his practice his wife had given birth to five of their 10 children.

    All but the last were girls, said Elder Nelson.,5143,600110324,00.html

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

  27. “The new federal study reported that Utah’s “fertility rate” — the number of live births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 — was 93.1. That is 41 percent higher than the national average of 65.9. The next highest fertility rate among the states was 81.1 in Arizona…


    So I was off by 9%, so much for my memory.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

  28. A comparison of LDS family size in the United States with family size in other major religious groups shows that LDS families are substantially larger, especially for Mormons who attend church regularly (Fig. 7). Latter-day Saints who regularly attend church average one child more per family than Catholics, and the difference is even greater in comparison with both liberal and conservative Protestants. Larger LDS family size is sustained by pronatalist religious beliefs, by contact with a reference group sharing similar values, and by socialization into the LDS subculture (Heaton).

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  29. If you (defined in the widest possible terms) have the gall to say that Elder Russell Ballard (The youngest Apostle, I believe, and almost certainly in line to become prophet, according to a post I read on some other blog) bragging about how he and his wife had five kids when he was in school and then had five more is not social pressure to have big families, then we are living on different planets. Seeing as we live so far from each other (Me, Earth, you ????), it’s surprising our operating systems communicate as well as they do. Microsoft may have its tentacles farther out into the ether than i realized.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

  30. djinn: I simply can’t believe that you’re challenging my statement that women with more children are seen as being more righteous.

    Hehe. If it makes you feel any better I am only challenging it because the assertion is utter poppycock.

    Have you been to church lately? It seems to me you are describing a Mormonism of decades long past.

    Yes we do look at people with gobs of children with awe. That’s because it is really unusual to have that many children in this day and age. Non Mormons look at them with similar awe and shock.

    It’s absolutely ludicruous that you are denying this basic principle of the gospel.

    Har! Now you are just being sarcastic right? “Basic principle of the gospel”… good one.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  31. djinn,

    Your assertion is that: “A bigger family = greater righteousness”. This is generalization is just not accurate.

    Re #26 — Advice to not put off starting a family has nothing to do with the size of the family and certainly offers no support to your assertion above.

    Re #27 — Last time I checked not all Utahns are Mormon. But even if we agree that Mormon women have more children than the average American woman (which I do agree with) that offers no strong evidence to support your assertion above.

    Re #28 — See my comments on #27.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

  32. Djinn: Elder Russell Ballard (The youngest Apostle, I believe, and almost certainly in line to become prophet

    Wow. Your ignorance of Mormonism is surprising me more and more in this conversation. Why do you even comment on Mormon blogs if you aren’t Mormon and know so little about modern Mormonism?

    FYI: “Melvin Russell Ballard, Jr. (born October 8, 1928) is the sixth most senior apostle among the ranks of the Church.” (That according to wikipedia. You could learn a lot about Mormonism there…) Elder Ballard is just one year younger than President Monson and sixth in line in seniority so he is in fact almost certain to never be president of the church.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

  33. Utah has the highest birth rate in the nation at 2.63 children per family. About 60% of Utahns are Mormon, according to the Salt Lake tribune in an article dated from 2009. So, about 4 kids per Mormon mother.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

  34. djinn,

    I never disputed the idea that Utah has a higher birth rate than other states so you need not exert yourself trying to prove that point. But a higher birth rate in Utah does not track to your earlier silly claims.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 11:05 pm

  35. Drat. Sorry, confused Ballard with Bednar. Still, I find your assertion absurd. My great great great (some number of greats here) grandfather entered the Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young, another helped purchase the papyrus that became the Book of Abraham, I’m related to Reed Smoot, etc.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

  36. The highest birth rate in all 50 states tracks directly with my claims. Why are you trying to deny this?

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

  37. C’mon, Ballard, Bednar, easy to do. I am astonished at the difference there must be between being a woman in the Mormon church and being a man based on just these tiny snippets of conversation. How many cousins do you think my kids have? Did you guess somewhere around 100? 100? ONE HUNDRED:?????????

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:12 pm

  38. Actually, I think it’s only 90; but adding the children of cousins it easily makes it over the 100 mark. This is not some statistical long tail, well it would be but we’re talking Mormons in Utah.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

  39. djinn,

    Why should your ancestry have anything to do with your comprehension of modern Mormonism? My guess is you haven’t been practicing Mormonism for a long time. Is that right? If so it would make sense that you would have a picture of Mormonism that looks like the church at the time you stopped coming. When was that? The 70’s or 80’s? (Feel free to set me straight on my guessing)

    Things have changed a lot regarding the family size messaging in the church from 20-30 years ago.

    I readily agree that Mormon Americans still have more children than non Mormon Americans on average. I adamantly disagree with your assertion that in the church “a bigger family = greater righteousness”. That is simply a bogus, ham-fisted, and generally ignorant generalization in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

  40. So, it’s late and i’m getting more rude, as such things tend to happen. Did i tell you about my friend whose cousin’s wife died in childbirth (heart condition)? Her doctors told her not to get preggers, but she, good mormon girl, did, after hearing all those miraculous stories in church of women that are told by their doctors to not have babies, but then pop them out just fine? I grew up with them.

    That story didn’t get told in church.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:19 pm

  41. Re #37 — I’m afraid I have no idea what you are talking about there…

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 11:20 pm

  42. I don’t want to give away too much personal information, but as you can tell by the size of my family, in my extremely extended family, huge families are still the rule. To this day; and whether you think Ballard’s opinion, as an apostle, should be respected or not, I assure you my family is listening.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

  43. You don’t think the number of toddlers running around at a mormon family picnic has anything to do with whether mormons think overpopulation is a problem? Isn’t that the question?

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:25 pm

  44. djinn (#42) — Elder Ballard didn’t say what you said. So while I have no problem with his counsel to not put off starting a family until after graduation, I do have a problem with the completely separate assertion you made.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 11:25 pm

  45. #43 — No. See my comment #21.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

  46. What was the point of this post? My family doesn’t care about overpopulation because they think the second coming will hit before peak oil–actually, I don’t think they have a clue about peak oil. They don’t care how many resources they use up because, well, you know.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:30 pm

  47. Sorry for commenting; I didn’t realize comment 21 was the end of the story.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

  48. But, when resources get scare, it’s always wars. It’s already wars.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:32 pm

  49. #46 — If your complaint is about a certain fatalism that comes with political and religious conservativism I am completely on board with that complaint.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

  50. Elder Ballard said that he had five children prior to graduating from Medical School, and five children afterwards. Let’s think about that two earring only story. Just as a thought experiment.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

  51. What Geoff J., you’re on my side all of a sudden? Give me a minute, i can’t deal. Deep breaths. And thank you.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

  52. Elder Ballard, as an Apostle is a role model. His life story, especially when presented heroically as here, is absolutely a life to be emulated, whether he uses those words or not; and Geoff J., It’s plainly obvious that you are intelligent enough to realize this.

    Comment by djinn — May 24, 2010 @ 11:56 pm

  53. President Monson, as President of the church and prophet is even more of a role model. He had three children.

    Your arguments are failing on this one djinn. I think your best bet would be to just say “I overstated things when I claimed that in Mormonism a bigger family = greater righteousness”. I will then say “no worries” and we’ll be done discussing your assertion.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2010 @ 12:04 am

  54. You’re assertion, that a bigger family doesn’t equal more righteousness is clearly true for you and your experiences of life, the universe, and everything. I cannot argue with that. Things are very different in my Utah Valley (for the most part) family; sorry, they just are.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 12:07 am

  55. Monson didn’t serve a mission either. Shall we assume missions are also now unimportant?

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 12:11 am

  56. Hehe. I am always surprised at how many people absolutely refuse to tap out on a debate even when they clearly have no legs to stand on.

    Regarding your #55 — you were the one who brought up role models not me.

    Let’s stop here and agree that your Utah County family is really weird. May they multiply like rabbits if they are under the delusion that doing so makes God like them more! (grin)

    BTW — I’m glad we also agreed on the Star Trek vs Mad Max thing.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2010 @ 12:24 am

  57. So you agree with me about the interpretation of Monson not serving a mission? Kewl.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 12:36 am

  58. Oh, I am totally willing to agree that my family is weird, with the caveat that there are many many many families around them that behave the same way. I’m not sure why you can’t admit this.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 12:38 am

  59. All together now “Pres. Monson didn’t server a mission, so you don’t have to either.”

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 12:48 am

  60. serve a mission. I blame Can. (I’m listening to them, they’re talking about gigantic octopuses grabbing peopole with quite the groove, surely you can understand my inattention.)

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 12:50 am

  61. Yes, I brought up role models because Elder Ballard set himself one explicitly when it came to family size. Monson has not done so either for how many kids should have or whether or not one should serve a mission. See the difference? Am I going to have to downside my estimate of your IQ?

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 12:53 am

  62. Wow. That comment had even more mistakes than I can blame my barely functioning keyboard on. Trying again:

    Yes, I brought up role models because Elder Ballard set himself as one explicitly when it came to family size. Monson has not done so either for how many kids one should have or whether or not one should serve a mission. See the difference? Am I going to have to downside my estimate of your IQ?

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  63. Manic tonight are we?

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2010 @ 1:00 am

  64. No, actually. But I get the suggestion. feel free to delete all my posts.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 1:23 am

  65. Nah. That was a quick and easy way to rack up 65 comments. Nicely done.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2010 @ 1:25 am

  66. Ah, please delete me. ps. One does not listen to Can when one is Manic. Mahler, early Hole, Bikini Kill, the Boredoms, Beethoven’s latest quartets, the Damned (obvious choice). Not beautiful 70’s pre-krautrock. Just for future reference.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 1:45 am

  67. I wonder if someone can figure out who I am simply from that somewhat eclectic list of music. Good thing i didn’t mention Gram Parsons. Ooops.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 1:48 am

  68. Check out D&C 104:17

    Comment by Eric Nielson — May 25, 2010 @ 5:45 am

  69. A couple of comments:

    All of the conversation about Bednar vs Ballard are misguided. The initial quote was by Russell M. NELSON (as per comment #26). He actually does have 10 children. He actually did have 5 during his medical training.

    All the talk of “having a lot of kids” is probably moot anyway. I don’t think it’s really emphasized anymore. President Monson has 3 kids. President Uchtdorf has 2 kids. It’s not the modern paradigm. Back in the early days of the Church it was more prevalent, but agricultural communities tended to have more kids anyway to help on the farm, etc.

    Comment by Mike S — May 25, 2010 @ 7:23 am

  70. Very true Mike. In fact I made that same point somewhere in that massive comment flurry from djinn.

    (Now the question is, should I delete the whole exchange…)

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2010 @ 8:19 am

  71. That whole exchange was unusual.

    Comment by Syphax — May 25, 2010 @ 8:22 am

  72. Also, I like it when a 60+ comment exchange starts out with the phrase “This is not debatable.”

    I continue to enjoy this blog.

    Comment by Syphax — May 25, 2010 @ 8:24 am

  73. I cruised around some mormon mommy blogs where there were a number of explanations on why they had so many kids. They were all very coy and emphasized that their religion did not dictate the number of their children. So, clearly my original comment “This is not debatable” in reference to more kids = more righteousness is not directly talked about. Fascinating. It’s debatable.

    But why all the extra children then? And what was Elder Nelson (sorry about all the misattributions) talking about (five kids prior to graduation, five after) if not a dog-whistle to the faithful?

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  74. As to the tenor of the comments; hey, it always makes my day if I can work a reference to a Japanese noise band into a conversation.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 11:49 am

  75. If I wasn’t clear, I’m acknowledging that I was wrong, but there may be a bit of truth…. Mostly wrong? I has a wonderful time arguing with you last night, Geoff J, so thank you very much for that. Again, if you feel that my comments were inappropriate, please feel free to delete them all, but as a favor, just work “The Boredoms” (or your favorite Japanese band–Shonen Knife? You kinda seem like a Shonen Knife kinda guy) into a comment within the undefined future.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  76. djinn: If I wasn’t clear, I’m acknowledging that I was wrong

    My respect for you just notched higher djinn.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

  77. RE:#55 Monson didn’t serve a mission either. Shall we assume missions are also now unimportant?
    Interesting. In California we just received counsel from a member of the Quorum to be careful about putting pressure or over importance on serving a mission. It does not make you a second-class mormon to not serve a mission and its not a saving ordinance. A number of our apostles did not serve missions.

    Comment by Hal — May 25, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

  78. I wouldn’t be too worried about peak oil. When gasoline produced from crude oil becomes sufficiently uneconomical to power automobiles it will be replaced by any number of substitutes generated using energy from other energy sources, notably nuclear power, natural gas, and solar.

    Comment by Mark D. — May 25, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

  79. A nuclear car… that sounds really fast.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

  80. I used to work for a utility, and so have actual data on prices of alternative energy sources. They’re all perhaps a magnitude or more higher than the big three: gas, oil, and coal.

    I also still know people working in alternative energy (and hope to know more.) There are wonderful things being built, but not at any sort of scale I can see making a difference for quite a while. Will there be a gap between peak oil and reasonable amounts of the new technologies coming on line? Yes. We have no replacement for fertilizer, for starters. And yes, I hope I’m wrong.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

  81. Gasification of natural gas starts making economic sense when Gas hits about $7.00. Ouch. Plus. Natural gas is yet another unrenewable energy source.

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  82. $7.00/gal

    Comment by djinn — May 25, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  83. Geoff, the key phrase is “substitutes generated using energy from other energy sources”. Meaning you use nuclear power to generate electricity, electricity to generate hydrogen, etc.

    Apparently we have over a century of proven natural gas reserves. When/if we really hit peak oil, $7.00/ gal gasoline (in real terms) will probably be par for the course. Perhaps more people can telecommute.

    Comment by Mark D. — May 25, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

  84. It pains me to say this, but djinn was right as to the general motif that “larger families = greater righteousness” I saw that all the time growing up. Even knew people in contests (thinking of an old Stake President I was executive secretary for and an MD he felt he was in a contest with).

    Of course in an agricultural society, more children = greater wealth. I’ve seen people breed their may to money.

    In an industrial society, children = consumer good. You can see people breed themselves into poverty.

    I actually read about Parisian style housing in an article by P.J. O’Rourke, the famous comedian (his economics always gives way to his humor when accuracy conflicts with a good line or humor point). Then I went to Paris for my twentieth wedding anniversary.

    Assuming we drop the sheep and cattle in order to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses (and our ancestors brought on an ice age by a similar method, so it appears to work) we could readily sustain more than twice the human population at much higher calorie intake than we currently have.

    I know, not everyone would find Paris as enchanting as I did, or San Francisco either. But read a description of the New Jerusalem and use it for comparison and a thought project.

    But, if you want to debate urban planning rather than just call me an unnamed idiot … Your post implies that the current food production of the world, if cut in half (but cattle production greatly reduced) is not sustainable at that level.

    You may be right. And hot fusion may never be obtained, though right now the only problem seems to be doing it on a small scale. But if it is, and if the room temperature superconductor problem is not solved, then power wheeling remains a problem.

    People living densely and reserving more of the world for recreation and natural state appreciation seems like better urban planning than sprawl.

    Anyway …

    For more, see the humor version of the point:

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — May 26, 2010 @ 3:57 am

  85. I’m not saying that djinn was right about calling me an idiot, etc., only on the other point ;)

    It just pained me to agree with her after she called me an idiot, otherwise not so much.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — May 26, 2010 @ 3:59 am

  86. And I do think that water shortages will bring on the next round of military violence between nations. The entire middle east is just brimming with problems. Much of the United States as well.

    Though Paris seems to do quite well for itself ;)

    Back in the 70s there was a lot in the congressional record looking at the future, seeing the race between running out of resources and breaking through. I knew the head of Exxon Nuclear. He felt that nuclear was only a stop gap measure to get us through to when fusion would finally succeed, which he felt would take much longer than the short predictions (the range in 1970 was 20 to 100 years, he felt that the 100 years was closer to likely reality than 20).

    Since it is 2010, it has already been 40 years and no successful hot fusion. Sixty years from 1970 now seems a lot more likely than 20 ;)

    But I agree with Roark Marsh and others that success is likely at some point. Boone Pickens has made some interesting points as well, though the discovery of the latest natural gas reserves really derailed his current project.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — May 26, 2010 @ 4:05 am

  87. Stephen: I saw that all the time growing up

    I saw it all the time growing up too and I am a bit younger than you. But I think you are missing the crux of the disagreement. My position is that the unwritten bigger families = more righteous assumption died off more than 20 years ago and is all but extinct in the church now.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 26, 2010 @ 8:45 am

  88. In my ward the assumption is
    more than 5 kids = crazy people

    Comment by Matt W. — May 26, 2010 @ 9:02 am

  89. Exactly Matt. That is the prevailing culture in the current American Church and the point I was making to djinn.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 26, 2010 @ 9:16 am

  90. Sorry about calling your argument stupid, Steve M (Ethesis.) I didn’t realize you had an actual argument hiding under the sentence. My mistake. Those of you mormons who think having over five children are crazy people should let my family know.

    Comment by djinn — May 26, 2010 @ 10:20 am

  91. My further mistake, I should never call any argument made by you stupid, because, Steve M (Ethesis), you clearly are not. And, all evidence to the contrary, I’m not in Kindergarden. (Hmm, perhaps ‘poopyhead’ would go over better as an insult.)

    I have been on the internet since before it existed (cool trick, huh?) and my commenting style unfortunately shows this bad bad influence. Next time, i’ll do my best to just request a further explanation.

    Comment by djinn — May 26, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  92. Oh, and Stephen M (ethesis), (no period after the M, ethesis all in lower case, the ‘ph’ spelling of Stephen,
    I see that I have been consistently misspelling your name. Considering my impertinence, you certainly had every right (according to those old, old commenting rules) to point this out to me, but were a gentleman and did not do so. Now I feel really bad, which is appropriate considering my misbehavior. timeout for djinn, and no snack.

    Comment by djinn — May 26, 2010 @ 10:38 am

  93. As a Mormon woman can I just throw in my 2 cents here?

    I grew up in the 80s where I thought it was pretty much a given that I would use birth control and control the number of children I had when I got married. I grew up in a small Mormon community. In my ward there were a couple of families with LOTS of children. And there seemed to be, at some point in the recent history around those parts at least, some idea that there were all these spirits waiting to come to earth, and if Mormon women didn’t give birth to them…where would they go? To non-member families, which was clearly, less desirable. But, I always thought that sounded like crazy talk. So of my best friends in high school our families looked like this:

    My family: 3 kids
    Friend 1: 5 kids
    Friend 2: 5 kids
    Friend 3: 6 kids
    Friend 3: 9 kids
    Friend 4: 11 kids

    (clearly we were the weirdos with only 3)

    Flash forward to today, when all 5 of us are finished having children now that we are in our early 40s.

    Me: 3 kids
    Friend 1: 3 kids
    Friend 2: 3 kids
    Friend 3: 3 kids
    Friend 4: 4 kids
    Friend 5: 5 kids

    I realize this is anecdotal. There is one woman in my current ward who has 9 kids with one on the way, but she is the odd woman out. Most of the woman I know think a family of 5 kids is huge.

    Times have changed. And I certainly don’t know ANYONE who thinks having more kids makes them more “righteous”. But what I think, is that because of some of our theology, there are families who feel that they would like to have as many children as they can. Which is far fewer children than when we were all growing up in rural areas on farms.

    Comment by bandanamom — May 26, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

  94. bandanamom,


    Comment by Geoff J — May 26, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

  95. I’ve been looking for a way to email you Geoff J, but it doesn’t seem possible. If you want me to stop commenting just tell me and I will vanish, along with my breadth of musical knowledge (not that’s here or there, or even on point, Oh heck, I’ll try to just stop posting.

    I understand you can block people from your site, from personal experience, even though I didn’t even demand that you listen to Guitar Wolf or that almost completely unknown baroque master I keep annoyingly (redundant I know) pushing on all my friends.

    If I’m a problem, and I understand that my playful, somewhat reference ridden posts are unwanted; please just cut me off.

    Comment by djinn — May 27, 2010 @ 12:47 am

  96. I’ll try in the meantime to just go away.

    Comment by djinn — May 27, 2010 @ 12:48 am

  97. djinn,
    I’m one of those lurkers at NCT but have to chime in…The action on NCT for the last month has fallen somewhere between non-existent to boring. Your bantering with Geoff J. has brought back some interest. I hope you don’t go away – but Geoff J. is the king here.
    I think there is an underlying issue behind all of this big fams = righteousness idea. That is, How do we, and how important is it for LDS’s to, discern between mormon practice, mormon doctrine, mormon traditions, and mormon policies?

    Comment by Hal — May 27, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  98. Well for the record I already emailed djinn and told her I see no reason why she should go away. As Hal mentioned things have been pretty slow around here this year so some new blood has been refreshing.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 27, 2010 @ 11:39 am

  99. I have been on the internet since before it existed (cool trick, huh?) You mean Arpanet? I got an account to play zork, but didn’t get around to it, was too busy on cybernet.

    That was a long time ago.

    I misspell my own name too.

    Honestly djinn, everyone has come to some basic, baseline positive, conclusions about you, if you were a game designer I’d say you still deserve your twinkie ;)

    No offense taken. You are welcome just about everywhere, for what it is worth.

    Geoff, I was dealing with the “more kids = more righteous” and “too few kids = sinful” crowd up until 4-5 years ago. Hmm, with outliers even more recently.

    My wife and I have dealt with a lot of harsh comments over having “only” two kids since moving to Plano in the last ten years (where people did not know our backstory). Sometimes I slide those conversations into the burials of the children they don’t see and the other matters, sometimes I just slide.

    But I’m pretty sure that the meme has been more than alive enough the last ten-eleven years.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — May 28, 2010 @ 5:34 am

  100. Well Stephen I suppose we can only offer competing anecdotes.

    In my experience in a several stakes over the years the basic rule of thumb for Mormon Generation X and Generation Y couples seems to be 3-4 children when possible. Two or fewer children seems on the low side, five is on the high side, more than five is moving into weirdish territory (often reserved for the home-schooling Holly Hobby types).

    But I can say that I never ever see anyone among GenX or GenY generations who preaches or implies or even thinks that the 5+ children crowd are in any way “more righteous”. However I do remember sensing that basic attitude among Baby Boomers and and pre Boomers. So my basic theory is that this particular meme largely didn’t pass to us GenXers.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 28, 2010 @ 8:37 am


    I found this through the Oil Drum blog, and I thought that graph would fit well in the discussion here. Fascinating just how massive the increase in population has been over the past 500 years or so.

    Comment by Dan — May 28, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

  102. Hey Stephen M (Ethesis), I used to play zork, but it’s been quite awile since I’ve been eaten by a grue. Thanks for the kind words.

    Comment by djinn — May 28, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

  103. And Stephen M (Ethesis) (is there any way to make that easier to spell?) this topic concerning your situation breaks my heart. I have it so easy

    –with great respect

    Comment by djinn — May 28, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

  104. Stephen M (Ethesis), I used to be friends with one of Pres. Kimball’s grand daughters’ in law, and so I know a bit about the family. I know very little about your history, but there are similarities I won’t get into here. Are you a Kimball, in some genetic form?

    Comment by djinn — May 28, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  105. I don’t expect you to answer that last question, I’m really sorry I asked it. I can’t believe I was so stupid.

    –Genie, coming to her senses.

    Comment by djinn — May 28, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

  106. –Genie, coming to her senses.

    Comment by djinn

    No problem. These days I see you post, it makes me smile. The permas at Mormon Matters had a long discussion about you, we all came to positive conclusions.

    For the most part just call me Ethesis and it will do for short.

    Back in the 70s I had a handle with (a) worked well for a college student and (b) when I got back on line, someone else had taken. I was on gnn which let me have But, gnn got eaten by AOL, smarsh was taken and so I went to Ethesis, a word I made up from scratch (though another group tried to appropriate it).

    I started blogging with in 1997. Then found the bloggernacle with all the young kids. But, there were a pile of Steves and there was Steve EM so I went to Stephen M (Ethesis) so that places that require your real name could have my real name and those that allowed handles, or needed a way to distinguish between all the Steves and Stephens would know who I was.

    Not to mention, my handle is now well established that everyone knows who I am (if nothing else, they link to the front page of adrr and there is a picture of me or they go to facebook).

    I knew the Kimball who taught at BYU’s law school. He was a nice guy. Don’t know the rest, but I’m blond, half Greek, have a wonderful wife.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — May 29, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  107. djinn — actually, people ask me all sorts of questions I answer. ;)

    visit my blog some time at — many of the posts are really answers to questions.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — May 29, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  108. Thanks for the invite S M (E), I will.

    Comment by djinn — May 29, 2010 @ 5:01 pm


    I found this through the Oil Drum blog, and I thought that graph would fit well in the discussion here. Fascinating just how massive the increase in population has been over the past 500 years or so.

    Comment by Emily — June 3, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  110. It also seems to me that Mormon families are having less children than they used to.

    I did find these references to the this phrase of the Proclamation on the Family, “We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”

    Russell M. Nelson, “Faith and Families,” Ensign, Mar 2007, 36–41

    L. Tom Perry, “Fatherhood, an Eternal Calling,” Liahona, May 2004, 69–72

    M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Liahona, Mar 2006, 10–17

    Henry B. Eyring, “The Family,” Ensign, Feb 1998, 10

    Julie B. Beck, “What Latter-day Saint Women Do Best: Stand Strong and Immovable,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 109–12

    See also

    Comment by Rich Alger — June 14, 2010 @ 5:21 pm