An Heritage of the Lord…
Over the years Monica and I have responded to a number of inquiries about the size of our family. We get it, twelve seems like a lot of kids. I can tell you that it seemed a lot bigger number when we were younger and had fewer children than our perspective today, but it is an understandable curiosity for people who have for whatever reason not experienced the life of children by the dozen.
Among the most common questions asked:
- Are they all from one marriage? Yes. The first came just two years after we were married when Monica was 22 and I was 26. Number twelve arrived just after I turned 50 and Monica was 46.
- Did you adopt any children? No. However, I suppose if the Lord ever led us to do so we would not hesitate.
- Were they all single births? Yes, but Monica was always hoping for twins. Being the bargain hunter that she is, two births for the effort of one pregnancy seemed like quite a deal.
- Do you homeschool? Other than during Covid, no, we are not homeschoolers, but I personally enjoyed that time with my girls. For all of you who homeschool this is not meant to offend, but Monica’s answer to that question is something like, “I may be committed but I’m not crazy.” The truth is that if we ever felt the need, we would homeschool in an instant, but our children have received such a wonderful educational experience with the faculty at Cole Elementary and associated schools that we have felt it never to be required.
One question that has been asked often is, “Did you always plan on having a big family?” I think we always planned on having a large family, but twelve is considerably larger than anything we ever considered when we discussed these matters while dating and in early marriage. We had decided that we would never allow educational or financial considerations to interfere with the size or timing of our family. We always felt that if we waited until we were completely ready financially or out of convenience to have children, we might never be ready and it would never be convenient. Our only serious concern was always for Monica’s health. If we looked after her well-being, and worked hard, we had faith in the Lord that He would provide the means, whether naturally or by adoption if need be.
I came from a family of five kids, being the fourth and final of my parents’ biological children. I was blessed 3 1/2 years later by the adoption of a beautiful younger sister. Growing up as I did, I came to consider five just the right size family.
Monica was an only child until she was 13 years old. From new parental relationships five more half brothers and sisters came following the dissolution of her parents’ marriage. Monica grew up very independent and accustom to playing alone, but she wanted her children to have siblings close in age and decided she would like to have a big family. Early in our relationship we visited the Los Angeles Temple. In the gardens there we saw a statue of a family, mother and father with five children. She decided five or six children seemed about right. In 2016 our family posed for a picture with that statue when our third son William was married to Marina in the Los Angeles Temple.
As I mentioned our first child Danny was born two years after we were married. Just after two more years, our second son Matthew arrived. Things seemed to be going along great and we had our third son William about 19 months later. Suddenly we were out numbered and I have to say it was not easy. For us when it came to the mathematics of children 2 + 1 did not add up to 3. It seemed more like 10. Perhaps three would be the Malcolm family limit. We were both working very hard to build our business, and being out numbered was not an easy thing for us. We struggled. It was not that William was different from his older brothers, it was just that up until we had three children I would regularly take Danny with me when I was about my business, while Monica would nurture Matthew and make sure all of his needs were met. Nevertheless, the Lord did provide a way and we were able to overcome that 3 to 2 disadvantage. We were so happy to welcome Hyrum into our lives, like his brothers before him, and our family continued to grow. Oddly, despite the ratio, we never really felt outnumbered again.
Monica had a household full of boys, and I thought she could never be happier. People would sometimes comment on our lack of daughters, but I remember one kind man Dennis Flake saying, “Anybody can have boys and girls, but to specialize, that takes real talent.” It is no wonder we always loved Bishop Flake. His generosity of words always brought such smiles to Monica’s face.
Nevertheless, the Lord had other plans, and a little girl Simin came into our lives and changed our world for the better still. The response by many was actually quite surprising to us. We both heard multiple times, “You finally got your girl, so you can quit now.” I think when we first heard that we were a little caught off guard but polite. Privately we thought, “Were we just shooting for a girl?” We knew the answer to that, and it was not long before Simin had a darling little brother of her own, Joseph.
When our family was just starting to be seen by some as oversized, a dear friend of ours, Mary Orton, made a very kind, generous and approving observation, “Good people ought to have more children.”
We had six kids in just less than a decade, and we actually started thinking that perhaps this was our family complete. It was about that time I think that we were sitting in a church service where the little children of the congregation were providing a special service (primary program) in which they sang a number of songs and provided spoken words for all the ward to enjoy. We as parents were so delighted to watch our little ones up in front singing and speaking prepared words. We felt the Spirit so strongly as we thought of the Savior’s words regarding the little ones. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
Monica and I had worked hard in life, planning for our future with the hope of retiring while we were still young, and spending many years doing missionary service. For this to come about in the timing that we had hoped would depend on our children maturing to adulthood while we were still quite young, in our early 50s I suppose. I sat in that church service pondering the life we had lived, our plans for the future and gazing upon the joyful faces of our little ones. My right arm around my sweet Monica, I whispered, “I know that we have plans to retire young and to dedicate our lives to serving the Lord in whatever capacity He would have us, but sitting here now, looking into the faces of our children, hearing their angelic voices singing praises to God, I am good with this. If this is what the Lord would have us be, parents of little children even into old age, I am up for it. I am happy.” We warmly embraced, both of us feeling the Spirit confirm our mission and our life’s work, our life’s joy. It was not long before Hanieh was born, and then Lucy.
Our family was eight children strong, and everything seemed to be as it should. We had not decided to stop having children, but we were thinking that perhaps this was where we were supposed to remain. One weekend Monica attended a large gathering of sisters for a local women’s conference. Elder Larry R. Lawrence was the keynote speaker. We had long known and respected Elder Lawrence and his sweet wife Laurel and looked to their counsel in the raising of our own children. On this occasion as Monica has recalled, Elder Lawrence was talking about the importance of good families providing homes for the spirits that are awaiting in Heavenly Father’s presence to come to earth.
“More Nephis and Esthers need to come into the world. If good people do not welcome them into our homes they will be sent elsewhere.”
Elder Larry R. Lawrence
Speaking of some of the great young men and women of the Lord in ancient days, Elder Lawrence expressed, “More Nephis and Esthers need to come into the world. Will they be welcomed into our families? If good people do not welcome them into our homes they will be sent elsewhere.”
Upon hearing these words, sitting in the midst of hundreds of women, Monica remained silent, but wanted to stand and declare, “I will welcome them into my home!”
She came home that day, silent no more, telling me of all that she had experienced, the powerful confirming Spirit which she felt, and told me plainly and with joy, “We need to have more children,” and I concurred. Laura and Danica joined our family in the years that followed.
With ten children, five boys and five girls, how could things be more perfect? Would this be it? Monica’s experience has brought her to say many times, “If you don’t want to have any more children, do not pray about it, and do not go to the temple.” Well, she prayed about it, and she sought the counsel of the Lord in His House, and we continued to have children.
Over the years we have had many profound, deeply spiritual and sacred experiences that I will not share. Suffice it to say, each and every one of these encounters have convinced us to trust in the Lord and He would guide our path. “[His] word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
To our great joy Jodie was born and we had eleven children. We knew that we needed to continue to make our lives available for more children if the Lord saw fit bless to us. So happily we did.
A couple of years later we suffered one of our most sore experiences in a miscarriage. Our sense of loss and sorrow was overwhelming. I had never before understood how someone felt who experienced miscarriage, but now I knew, and it was profoundly painful. I believe one of the reasons why it was so hard for both of us is that we have never known with certainty the disposition of this spirit child of God, who we so wanted to welcome to our home. We know that little children are innocent unto the Lord, and that their salvation is assured through the atonement, but will they one day be an active part of our family? We hope and pray they will, for we love them as if they have always been with us.
It was not long after, when Monica had fully recovered from the trauma of miscarriage, that we welcomed Kellie into our home. What joy was restored to our family!
Following Kellie we endured one more miscarriage, which was also very difficult, and now with Kellie approaching nine years old, we have come to accept that it is not likely our immediate family in this life will grow more. Nevertheless, with five daughters-in-law, one son-in-law, nine grandchildren and two more on the way, our family does indeed continue to grow. I suppose we do have a big family, in this we are so wonderfully blessed. Monica and I are ever grateful and dedicate our lives to He through whom we are so richly blessed. We call our family community Zion, the place where God’s people dwell.
“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:3-5).
A happy man I am, for my quiver, like my heart, is full. Blessed I am by God with Monica, her willing heart to receive, and fruitful posterity like an abundant harvest of joy. May we open our mortal lives and homes to whatever capacity we may be blessed, and in the eternities enjoy the blessed fruit of love sown from the heart and family that endures forever. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.