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PROBLEMS OF THE AGE
Dealing with Religious, Social and Economic Questions and Their Solution.
A Study for the Quorums and Classes of the Melchizedek Priesthood. 1917-1918.
By Dr. Joseph M. Tanner
VIII. – Value of Child Life
Purity of the Race. – There is nothing in the crumbling processes of our modern civilization more menacing to our future welfare and happiness than the curtailment of child life. Thoughtful men and women begin already to appreciate the dangers which beset us from this source. They are making every effort to conserve human life, but at best they are dealing only with remedies, and are not grappling with the dangers at the seat of this world-wide disease. Public men are appealing to the men and women of the world to spare the nations of Christendom the calamity of self-extinction. Of all questions which beset mankind today, there is not one whose ramifications go into every phase of life like that of child-birth. Neither is it a matter of will, for we are solemnly warned that evil conditions have so crept into the lives of our youth that the absence of child life cannot be avoided.
The Revelation of Evils – The determination which a very large class of the people of the world have manifested against any further increase of child life reveals a multitude of evils that are a danger to the morals of the world. There is now going on throughout the Untied States a campaign among women against the so-called “double standard,” by which is meant that men may be forgiven the excesses of youth, that their sins may be winked at, and that they may be permitted to assume the solemn duties of husband, and it may be, of father. When the women were charged with wilful barrenness, they were quick to retort, in perhaps most instances, that the charge was false, and refused to permit the accusation to be laid at their door. They began then a campaign in the legislatures of the different states of the Union to compel men, through doctors’ certificates, to establish their fitness for married life. While they have had some measure of success, as a rule their campaign has not been successful.
A Dangerous Situation. – If it be true, as is frequently charged by medical science through certain publications, that the question of parentage with a large percentage of our men is not at all a question of willingness, but one of ability: when the young manhood of our nation reaches such a state of degradation, the revelation is most appalling, and the hope of the future posterity is indeed small. Again, it is declared that in a large number of instances the danger of birth is more alarming than its absence, because so many children are born into the world with physical inheritances that wholly unfit them for the responsibilities of life. It is the sacred right of children to be born physically, mentally, and morally right. If the vices of the fathers entail upon our children the dangers and sufferings of sin, every effort should be made to eradicate them. The double standard is said to be the fixed rule in life, but it is not true among Latter-day Saints. Upon men there is put the same accountability as that which rests upon women. If, indeed, there is a difference, it stands against the man, whose mission in life is to protect by every means the daughters of Eve.
National Calamities. – Already France has reached a stage where the death rate is in excess of the birth rate. In Germany publicists are sounding a note of warning against conditions which threaten there to become as menacing as they are in France. The present war is much more likely to increase this menace to the race than it is to improve it. Even though future wars may not be immediate, and the peace of the world may not be threatened for generations, child-bearing will be refused on the ground that parents do not care to produce “fodder for the cannon” of those who are ambitious for war. There have been serious economic objections against child-life, and now new objections will be furnished by the destruction of the youth, the strongest and best in the manhood of nations.
Value of Children. – What is likely to be the result of this menace to our national life? In the first place, the birth of a million children has in it more potential value than all the billions of dollars that come from our fields, and we might include in that all the wealth that comes in a single year from our mines. We have never fully realized the value of an increasing population. If our population begins rapidly to decrease, our workshops will be empty, our railroads will be without patronage. The doors of our factories will be closed; and what will be more trouble, there will be a stagnant condition of life that forebodes decay and destruction. A decreasing population is a sure sign of increasing decay. The spirit of abandonment is the spirit of defeat. Men lose their courage, women their fortitude, and they settle down in a spirit of the fatalist, whose demoralizing life is reflected too much among Asiatics, in whom there is no ambition to advancement. Furthermore, by the abandonment of children, our lives are cut in two, so far as our ambition and struggles to promote ourselves in life go. Men forty-five and fifty are in the zenith of their power. At that age they are able to take a survey of practically all that they have to hope for in life. At that age their ambition comes generally to a standstill. If there are no children to whom their ambitions may be transferred, they are without hope.
Australia allows by law $25.00 to the mother of every child born to her without making inquiry into its parental origin. Other countries make provisions for the expenses of child-birth because they have learned the value of child life. The Untied States has in the past been supplied with population largely by immigration; and yet different states make provisions for the expenses of childhood.
Ruskin beautifully declares that “There is no wealth but life – life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest, who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influences, both personal and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.” The wealth that comes from the veins of human life is purple. It is not the yellow of gold, a dross in comparison.
After the War, that ever-recurring phrase, human life will be more valuable than ever. How little value the nations have put upon childbirth! It is the old story of a buried talent, which the calamities of war is taking away from us. It is the taking away of even that which we have. Are the Latter-day Saints becoming tinctured with the fatal philosophy that they cannot afford life? Do they argue the “higher cost”? If so, they, too, may experience the “taking away.” Whatever is a talent we ought not to bury; but the world is the grave-yard of buried talents. “But,” it is asked, “what is the remedy for the “higher cost”? Faith. If we lost faith in God we shall also lose faith in his creations and in his law. The pressure, we say, is awful, but all life is born and continues under pressure. We are not safe without pressure; it is the law of our being. Escape from it does not bring relief. The trouble is not that God has placed upon us a load too heavy to bear, but we have wasted the strength that would make the burden light. Child-bearing makes a woman strong, willful barrenness makes her weak. The latter weakens her will and robs her of her faith. The man who bears an empty case carries an empty life. “The strenuous life” makes men and women strong in purpose and valiant for the right. The objector further reasons that a fact is a fact, that “it is a condition, not a theory which confronts us.” But facts are miserable things if borne of false theories. Conditions fade in the light of faith and hope. We do not see our way through life, not even through a day of twenty-four hours, for part of it is given to darkness. The birth of children brings faith to the home. They come from a divine presence, and bring with them a love for things divine. “Blessed is he who hath his quiver full.”
Revelation. – “Now, I the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are growing up in wickedness; they also seek not the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness” (Doc. and Cov. 68:31).