This being so, large families cost more, and Utahns with their modest incomes have the highest tax burden in the West. Utah must educate 17.0 pre-school and 40.2 school age children for every 100 workers, compared to 11.3 pre-schoolers and 30.5 school children nationally. Utah's perhousehold tax burden is 8.3 percent of personal income, 1 percent higher than the average of western states. At the same time, Utah has more big houses than other places. The typical Utah house has six and a half rooms, and 28.3 percent of Utah homes have eight or more rooms, the nation's largest share of big houses. Utah has many large, flamboyant houses, reflecting the importance of home in Mormon ethos. They must have big houses for their ideal families and are often house-poor. People with smaller houses are also house-poor. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development reports very high rates of foreclosure in Utah. In 2002, HUD foreclosed on 1,391 Utah homes insured by the Federal Housing Administration loan program, compared to 769 foreclosures in 2001 and 72 in 1997.
Early marriage, large families, and big houses may partially account for Utah having the highest bankruptcy rate in the nation: one of every thirty-five households for the fiscal year ending in 2002. Financial fear may also at least partially account for the well-known vulnerability of Church members to scam artists. Always hopeful, members entrust their savings to investors who promise significant returns. Investigators note that most victims meet a fraudulent solicitor at a religious event. Members try to make prudent financial decisions, but they also believe in miracles. Will large families continue in the Church? One young mother spoke of wrestling with the issue.
As members of the church we feel that we need to multiply and replenish the earth. How far we're supposed to multiply is my question. I don't know how I could possibly manage to have five children, but I do. How many will I end up with? I don't feel terribly adequate as a mother. I feel like they're missing out on having a happier mother, but I'm always rushing around changing a diaper or nursing a baby or stopping a quarrel. Sometimes I wonder if God expects me to have baby after baby or does he expect us to use our free agency and our intelligence to decide for ourselves? We have read the church's statement on birth control so many times that it is dog-eared. When I pray about not having more children the answer is that it is up to my Heavenly Father. I don't feel that I can use birth control, but when I die is he going to say, 'You dummy'? If I have more, I guess I'll manage somehow.
Mormon families (4) are marked by more male authority and a traditional division of labor between husbands and wives. A compilation of numbers from several national surveys during the past thirty years, mostly from the 1990s, compared Mormons to American families. Sociologist Tim Heaton, speaking at a session of FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, came up with the following statistics. Mormon couples who attend church together are less likely to divorce than those who do not-about 20 percent compared to more than 50 percent for nonattenders. Mormon women are more likely to be happy when they find they are pregnant, and they are more likely to breast-feed their babies. The better educated an LDS woman is, the more likely she is to bear children; nationally, the reverse is true. The suicide rate among Utahns is higher than the national average, but lower among active Mormons. The use of anti-depressant Prozac is higher in Utah than the national average. Mormons consume more Jell-O, ice cream, marshmallows, and chocolate chips than others. He concluded that more religious people led a more familyoriented life and tended to be happier than others. These descriptions put a colorful edge on Mormons as a group, but they are still just a little different than other Americans and are squarely within standard norms for the United States. Mormons like marriage and are a little more likely to marry earlier and to remain married than others.
Mormons, like other families in the United States, divorce, remain single, and bear children outside of marriage. And always, there are single people and single parents. A few single women build families on their own, adopting children or resorting to test-tube fathers, but the Church discourages these measures, saying children need two parents. Unmarried women who become pregnant are encouraged to marry the fathers or to put their babies up for adoption. LDS Family Services, a private, nonprofit agency, provides support and resources for birth and adoptive parents. The message of the agency is that children born of unplanned pregnancies, particularly to teenage, unmarried mothers, will have better opportunities in the world when placed with stable families. Abortion is strongly discouraged. A website with a leading title, www.itsaboutlove.org, provides information. Unmarried mothers, they tell us, who give up their children generally go on to more education, better jobs, and are more likely to marry as well as less likely to repeat a later out-of-wedlock pregnancy. A statement of the First Presidency, dated November 19, 2001, stated, "We affirm the sanctity of life and its importance in God's eternal plan. We honor adoption as a positive way to provide children the blessings of a family and commend the many single women and men who choose adoption for their newborn infants." The Church also favors the adoption of older children into existing families. Adopted children are connected or "sealed" to their parents in the temples. Although fathers are considered essential, no one encourages widows or divorcees to give up their children.
The demands upon an LDS family can be seen by observing a bishop and his wife. These couples are expected to hew to high standards. The calling of bishop is akin to an additional full-time job; the wife is expected to pick up the family slack with fortitude and cheerfulness. An observer might wonder about their marital relationship when the men assume these heavy duties. Both partners feel pressure. The bishop's job is certainly demanding and difficult, but he receives the adulation of his flock. The strains show more in the bishops' wives who are expected to be model Mormons at all times while their husbands are absent and bogged down with seemingly insoluble problems. These women generally smile and keep their own counsel, but some spoke frankly for Meridian Magazine, an independent online LDS journal.