Johnny Townsend: Churches must urge members to have fewer children

FILE - This Feb. 16, 2017 file photo shows newborn babies in the nursery of a postpartum recovery center in upstate New York. Women in the United States gave birth last year at the lowest rate in three decades, a trend that could weigh on economic growth in future decades. The number of babies born in the U.S. has fallen for three straight years, and as births decline and the population ages, fewer Americans are available to work or start businesses, thereby slowing the economy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Mormons are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, even if they did excommunicate me.

Despite their horror at discovering I was using my seed in nonprocreative ways, church leaders maintained their commitment to clean speech and clean living as they darned me to hell and ordered me to take off my underwear.

At the time, the church’s homophobia seemed its biggest problem. But in the years since, I’ve seen that the relentless push for excessive procreation is the real crime, pushing us ever closer to an inevitable global disaster through unchecked climate change. When there is a famine, the solution isn’t to add more hungry babies to your family. In desperate times, we ration food to survive. Today we’re at one of the most desperate times in the history of our species. We need to start rationing procreation.

Mormons, of course, are hardly the only group to promote large families. Catholics are notorious for this as well, and Hasidic Jews, and various ethnic groups. Many procreate frequently due to a lack of reliable contraception, but far too many do it out of a sense of duty or righteousness. It’s exactly the wrong approach if we want to make the world a better place.

When I see these large broods of children, I don’t see the smiling promise of a great future. I see the cherubic, threatening children of “Village of the Damned.”

We need to adjust to a new normal. Having a large family no longer equals good and righteous living. I know parents with families of four children, of six or eight children. These parents generally are good people, as are their children. But our circumstances have changed. Just as a diabetic must adjust to a new normal of lower carb intake, as a species, we need to adjust behavior that has become perilous to our survival.

Humans have the compulsion to procreate encoded in their DNA. In my early 20s, I bought baby clothes in a variety of sizes at garage sales so I’d be prepared when it came time to start my own family. Even after I came out as gay, I considered donating sperm so I could pass on my genetic material. It’s not easy overcoming the molecular mandate to produce offspring.

But we can change even our deepest desires. And in this case, we must.

For many years, I fought valiantly to become straight, thrown into the depths of despair as nothing I did helped me reach this vital goal. My misery disappeared overnight when I finally accepted the truth and realized that my earlier desire was imposed on me by others, and I no longer needed to make their concern mine.

I remember the Mormon musical “Saturday’s Warrior,” in which the unrighteous sinners sing about “Zero Population,” clearly an idea of the devil. And I watch as people of so many faiths keep birthing more and more sweet little children who are destroying the world.

Many religious leaders repeat the illogical accusation against gays: If we all become gay, the human race will become extinct. Of course, all people won’t choose such a thing and, in fact, can’t. Likewise, not everyone in the world is going to choose to limit their contribution to an increasing global burden. Religious leaders should be telling the truth: If we don’t significantly curb human procreation, we’ll drive thousands more species to extinction and create a world so damaged that billions of humans will die as well.

In the New Testament, Matthew warns, “Woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!” (Matthew 24:19).

As a moral leader, the LDS Church needs to ask its members to shift to a two-child policy immediately and move toward a one-child policy.

I keep seeing Mormon parents filing into church with their sweet little blond children in tow. I see the children in the nursery, in Sunday school, all the congregants working together to raise the next righteous generation.

To raise a child well, it takes a village.

To raise a child doomed to inherit an uninhabitable world, it takes a village of the damned.

Johnny Townsend, Seattle, is the author of “Behind the Bishop’s Door” and many other collections of Mormon short stories.