Someone Has to Face the Valley, Part 2: The Questions

Dear Ms. Feverfew,

I went to the appointment yesterday with Brother Olsen from LDSFS. It went…well, it went. I am going to break up this story into a couple of parts because there are so many facets and things I need to tell you.

Before I start though, I thought I would share with you the list of questions that I took with me. I thought they were fair questions – hard – but fair. When I asked them, I tried to be my nicest self and to non-confrontational. I feel they were not only fair questions, but honest ones as well, meaning these are things I truly wanted to understand. So here there are, in all their glory…misspelled, bad grammar, all of it.

Much love,

M.

Questions for Brother Olsen of LDSFS:

  • Is adoption really considered to be a priesthood ordinance? {Fred Riley statement: “From the time of Adam, adoption has been a priesthood ordinance,” says Brother Riley. “It’s a principle of the gospel that probably all of us will experience at some point as we’re literally adopted into our Heavenly Father’s kingdom.”  Taylor, R. M. (2008). Why Adoption?, Ensign, Jan 2008, 46–52.}
  • If things are so different now in LDS adoptions, why did things need to change?
  • What were the problems with how things were done 18 years ago?
  • If there were problems, have there been apologies and corrections made to both natural parents and adoptees from the past?
  • When did they realize that there were problems?
  • Does LDSFS encourage open adoptions agreements to be signed prior to placement?
  • What have they done to help keep adoptions open?
  • Are adoptive couples allowed to adopt after they closed one adoption?
  • Are adoptive parents told that natural parents will move on?
  • Are PAPs encouraged to be at the hospital and doctor appointments? Why?
  • Are adoptive parents and natural parents both told that because of adoption there is a statistically higher chance the adoptee might commit suicide?
  • Why does LDSFS offer free lifetime counseling to surrendering mothers?
  • Are they told that they are at a significantly higher risk for depression and mental health issues that will require in-patient care? (3% of the general maternal population pre-surrender VS 12% post-surrender).
  • Are mothers considering surrendering their child for adoption told they face a much higher risk for secondary infertility than the general population (40-60% vs 2.24% for the general population)?
  • What is LDSFS view on adoption’s collateral damage on the extended family as well as future generations?
  • What kind of advice does LDSFS give to help repair damaged relationships with parents and siblings who were unwilling to help the young mother and who may have pushed for the adoption?
  • What specific counsel does LDSFS give on for the half or full siblings of the child relinquished for adoption?
  • What kinds of longitudinal studies have been done by the LDS church (if any) to track the activity rate, mental health status, marriage status, etc of women who surrender a child in the LDSFS system? If there isn’t one, why not?
  • What percentage of natural mothers and adoptees end up leaving the church?
  • What has the agency done to respect the rights of fathers?
  • What is done to make sure that no Native American children are adopted out without consent of the tribe?
  • You offer mothers who surrender their children for adoption through LDSFS a lifetime of free counseling. Is this same offer extended the adopted individual as well? Why?
  • As adoption affects entire family systems, shouldn’t the parented children of a surrendering mother also receive counseling for free as well?
  • Is kinship adoption/guardianship first encouraged so the child does not lose all of their family and heritage?
  • If the church is all about families and genealogy is so important – what about the adoptees? What is their true genealogy?
  • What about trans-racial adoptees like my daughter? What is done to help the adoptees embrace their cultural heritage or is does that part of their life because tabula rasa with the adoption?
  • Are their ancestors no longer important?
  • Who does the church consider to be their ancestors – their adoptive parents or first family?
  • And what of the issue of the sealing ordinance – if infant adoption is REALLY about ensuring children have access to the sealing ordinance, are newly converted single mothers told to relinquish their child for adoption to a temple worthy couple? Are they told they are being “selfish” for wanting to parent their child? What about children of part member families? Are their children any less “deserving” of the sealing ordinance than my daughter? Are those mothers told that if they loved their children enough, they would let a temple-married couple adopt their children so could be sealed together as a family?
  • How does the agency help to reunite the first mother and the adult adoptee?
  • According to LDS church policy, LDSFS should be offering single expectant parents who have the desire to parent support to learn the parenting and life skills they need to become successful parents. What is currently done to assist mothers who decide to parent their child? What programs and resources does LDSFS provide to these mothers?

I am One Angry Natural Mother

There is a fire in my belly, blazing white and fanned by the hot winds of moral turpitude of the people who profess to follow Christ, yet engage in devious, amoral behavior in His name. They commit atrocities in His name, holding themselves up as paragons of what is right, what is good, what is best.

Yes, I am angry. It is a righteous, oxidizing anger that consumes any fear in my heart and tempers the metal of my soul.

What am I so angry about? Read this story: http://ourheartslinked.blogspot.com/2010/12/keary-father-fighting-for-his-rights.html#comment-form

Yet another story about the LDS church and subterfuge they use to procure infant children for their “righteous” childless members.

Let me be perfectly clear about this: There is NOTHING righteous about what has happened to that father and his daughter. There is nothing righteous in stealing a man’s child so that other people can be parents.

I don’t know all the facts – maybe he is an abusive, alcoholic, drug dealing, kitty strangler, just like all birhtmothers are crack-whore baby abondoners. But what if he isn’t? What is he is just a man like my husband, a man who is crazy in love with his daughter? What if he is the kind of dad, who although not wealthy or white, would move heaven and earth for his daughter?

What if?

And how can we as a people who profess to have the further light and knowledge of God’s true nature, how can we allow a family to be torn apart like this, all to satisfy the baby-lust of some more “righteous” (i.e. white, wealthy) couple? God is not happy about this flesh peddling in his name, I can guarantee it.

My mother told me at one point that I was to become the Harriet Beecher Stowe of adoption in the LDS church –  I laughed at her then. This morning though…this morning I know it is Truth.

I have much more to write as it is no coincidence that just prior to learning of this story I have been reading Frederick Douglass’ autobiography. It is no coincidence I have begun to truly understand the parallels between slavery and modern infant adoption practices. It is no coincidence that I recently read the part in Douglass’ autobiography were he says that he would rather be a slave to a non-Christian master than a Christian one because they are the worst kind. Christian slave owners felt morally justified in their behavior because, after all, their religion told them it was the “right” thing.

This is exactly how the couple who now has custody of Keary’s baby feels – justified because their religion tells them they are entitled to this baby. Sure, they feel “sad” for him and his loss, but not “sad” enough to do what is morally, ethically, and legally right. Just like the children of slaves were sold, traded, or bartered away, this father has lost his child to unscrupulous human traffickers, acting in the name of “love” and “God.”

After pouring my heart out to God and watering my pillow with tears throughout the night, distraught over the plight of this father and his daughter – and frankly, in my own personal culpability in falling prey to the “what is best” argument in the LDS church –  I awoke in the morning, my path laid clearly before me.

I know exactly what it is I must do. I  know in doing it, I may finally be able to forgive myself for what what happened to us.

It is time to speak.

It is time to tell to the story of us. Out loud. In public. Calmly, eloquently, repeatedly, holding fast to the doctrine of Christ while cutting through the dogma of the Mormon culture. It is time to start petitioning the First Presidency and the Twelve for a redress of a natural parents’ grievances.

It is time.

 

[Edited 12/27/2010 to add: It looks like the adoptive parents did the right thing and returned baby Elizabeth to her mother when they found out both parents were not in agreement with the adoption. God bless them. Literally, God bless them for doing that – legally, they did not have too. It must have been the most difficult decisions for them, but I am so glad they respected both first parents enough to do what was morally and ethically correct. Now it is up to Elizabeth’s parents to work out how to parent this tiny little one between the two of them.]

National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 15: Changes to the LDS Adoption Policy

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

On Saturday November 13, a new administration handbook, “Handbook 2: Administering the Church” was rolled out for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Some of the notable changes to adoption related issues are:

21.1.3

Adopted Children and Their Biological Parents (p. 180)

Questions regarding the exchange of information and contact between adopted children and their biological parents should be handled with sensitivity. The legal rights and emotional needs of all relevant parties should be considered.

Wow. Massive directional change from 2006’s handbook that recommended that the only contact between adoptees and their biological parents was for non-identifying medical information.

But here is an even more seismic shift in LDS adoption policy. After the usual “if you aren’t going to get married, then you should consider adoption” stance, the handbook says:

21.4.12

Single Expectant Parents

If an expectant parent decides to parent the child, Church leaders and other members should treat the parent and child with care and compassion and seek to strengthen parenting skills. LDS Family Services may help in these circumstances. Leaders encourage the parent to have the child given a name and a blessing (see 20.2).

I sit here weeping, in part because I wonder where this compassion was 18 years ago. Our lives would be so different. I would have made you scrambled eggs and toast with homemade peach jam this morning, just like I did my other children.  I sit here weeping, in part because maybe, just maybe, the heart of this church is beginning to thaw.  Perhaps there is hope that in the future, LDS church leaders will recognize every mother and child as a family worthy of preserving.

Much love,

M.

God Doesn’t Do Adoption ~ The King Solomon Version

A few weeks ago in Gospel Doctrine class, we covered  the wisdom of King Solomon.  One of the “talking points” of the class study guide is this: “Two women take a child to Solomon, who wisely determines which woman is the mother of the child (3:16–28).”

Judgement of Solomon

“Judgment of Solomon” by Gustave Dore

Now this story is of particular import to me because it was used as a scriptural example and justification for relinquishing my daughter for adoption. After all,  a “real” mother would sacrifice her own “selfish wants” to parent her own child. A “real” mother would love her baby so much she would let him or her be raised by some other woman. Within the past few days, this same reasoning has been applied again to the John Wyatt case – if he really loves his daughter, he would “do the right thing” and let her be raised by someone else who claims to be her parents.

Just to refresh your memory, I have copied the entire text of this particular scripture, straight from the LDS edition of the KJV Bible.

1 Kings 3

16 ¶ Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.

17 And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house.

18 And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.

19 And this woman’s child died in the night; because she aoverlaid it.

20 And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.

21 And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.

22 And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.

23 Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living.

24 And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.

25 And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.

26 Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.

27 Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.

28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the awisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.

.

An interesting bit of history:  this story is the first recorded and published legal decision in all of the history of legal jurisprudence.

Hmmm…. The first recorded instance of a legal decision has to do with family law. Interesting.

So we read the story and the class started discussing how brilliant Solomon was and what it must have been like for him to come up with his decision. But I, being the constant questioner, the habitual wonderer, the inquisitive child, went wait just a second. (Mind you, this was in my head – I don’t usually raise my hand in Gospel Doctrine to point out things like this because that would bring down the fury and wrath of the LDS culture upon my head for merely questioning a policy of the church – not doctrine – but a policy. If there is anything you DO NOT do in the LDS faith, it is question, even honestly, a strongly held cultural practice. I mean, have you ever tried to suggest that green jello might be good with something else other than shredded carrots in it or that gasp, it might be  good just all by itself? But I digress, back to the story.)

I thought to myself, “Did anyone else catch that?”  And I went back and re-read the story again. Yep. There it is. I flipped to the front of my scriptures to make sure I had the correct LDS-sanctioned version of the Bible. Yep, I do. I flipped back to 1 Kings 3. Yep, it’s still there.

Who did King Solomon, in the wisdom of God (see verse 28) send the baby home with?

Was it his natural mother?

Or was it the woman who was so desperate for a child that she was willing to steal the baby of another woman and lie about being that child’s mother?

Oh. That’s right. King Solomon was wise enough to see through the ruse of falsified birth records AND to send that child home to be raised by his NATURAL mother (verse 27).

But wait just a minute…wasn’t that natural mother a single mother???? Oh and waaaaaaaaaaiiiiittt a second here – wasn’t she not only a single mother, but a harlot as well (verse 16)?

HANG ON AN EVER LOVIN’ SECOND: The wisest man in all of God’s creation, in a decision that has been heralded throughout time as a brilliant move of legal jurisprudence, sent that baby home with a SINGLE MOTHER who was a prostitute???????

Certainly there had to be at least ONE woman in all of Israel that was married, wealthy, and childless who “deserved” to be a mother, who knew all of the basics of child nutrition and discipline, who had started saving for the child’s education, who had a support system in place that would exist for the next 18 years, who knew of all the community resources available to help her, you know – the kind of woman who could answer all the questions from LDSFS the “right” way. King Solomon probably had a lot of them in his court! Why didn’t he just tell the natural mother that if she really loved that baby, she would let some other (presumably) more righteous, more wealthy woman raise her son? It’s about love, you know, and if she just loved that baby enough, she would let him be  raised by someone else.

Because King Solomon, in all of his wisdom, understood the bonds of a natural family. King Solomon, in all of his wisdom, understood that societal position or wealth did not entitle one woman to take another woman’s child.

In the first recorded act of jurisprudence, the wise and brilliant King Solomon ruled in favor of family preservation.

So here is yet another scripture reference that I believed supported my decision to relinquish my daughter for adoption, but now with the clarity of the years, I realize it was telling me the exact opposite. In every case so far, except for Moses because he was about to be killed by the directive of his future adoptive father, God has ruled in favor of family preservation.

Oi. I think I need some Tylenol now.

Love,

M.

P.S. As an interesting sidenote, when you click through the link for the cross reference to “wisdom” in verse 28, it takes you to a scripture from 2 Ne 21:2 in direct reference to Jesus Christ, the Great Healer and Physician, The One who can mend a broken heart and a broken life.

“And the aSpirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of bwisdom and cunderstanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;”

Sooooo…the folks who do the cross-referencing with the Book of Mormon thought this instance of King Solomon’s wisdom which ruled in favor of family preservation was important enough to reference to the wisdom and understanding that Christ possesses.

Hmmm…interesting. Very interesting.

Clearing up some misconceptions

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Normally these letters are all directed towards you, but I could not let some comments on another adoption blog pass by without being corrected.  I decided to do it here instead of there because I wanted to be able to provide links to resources, etc. The stuff in bold, that is what L. wrote in the comments on the other blog. The stuff in the regular font is my response – I am still trying to beef up the references sections for each of my responses so be patient with me please.

Sincerely,

Your Mother Who Seems to Have Opened a Can She Didn’t Know Was Full of Worms

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Dear L., –

I appreciate your efforts to elucidate others about LDS adoption practices and the comments over at Birth Mother, First Mother Forums.  I think it is a good beginning point to open a dialogue about the inner-workings of the beast the LDS adoption culture. In an effort to clear up some misconceptions about current LDS adoption practices and policies, I am attempting to address some of your points from the First Mother forum.

I should start off by saying that I am and have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints my entire 37 1/2 years.  I am currently active, attend weekly services, pay a full tithe, hold a temple recommend, and serve in various positions in my ward.  I do not list those things as a braggart, but to explain my qualifications in addressing some of the issues brought up in the comments on the other blog. I am an insider who is currently attempting to live the precepts of the LDS faith while reconciling my adoption experience with the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I consider myself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, I don’t consider myself to be a typical “Mormon” by any means because I tend to question with boldness the very existence of God.

Also, I very very very rarely ever enter into a public discussion about the doctrinal points of one religion or another. As my dear friend from Alabama always says, “That dog don’t hunt.”  I just don’t like to argue with perfect strangers about things, religious or otherwise. I’m a lover, not a fighter as the saying goes.  I am genuinely interested in all people’s religious experiences and truly believe that each person’s perspective only serves to enrich and clarify my own beliefs. I am one of those “crazies” who seeks truth wherever truth can be found and claim it as my own.

With all that being said, I hope some of my responses as an active LDS person can help clear up some misconceptions.

Ladies, Since I was raised LDS I can see parts that only an insider sees. First, the Mormon church does not advocate adoption, unless the father or mother is not mormon.

The LDS church absolutely promotes and advocates for adoption regardless of the church membership of either parent.  You can find more information here (Actually, probably way more info than you really want…): https://itsaboutlove.org . If a woman gets pregnant out of wedlock and she and the father do not get married, adoption is seen as the only acceptable alternative.

“When a child is conceived out of wedlock, the best option is for the mother and father of the child to marry… If a successful marriage is unlikely, they should place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Family Services… It ensures that the child will be sealed to a mother and a father in the temple…” (www.lds.org)

She is encouraged to relinquish her child through LDS Family Services as their screening process ensures that only temple-worthy married couples can adopt through that agency. A woman does not have to be LDS to place with LDS Family Services. However, to adopt through LDS Family Services, a couple must be active in the LDS church and hold current temple recommends. (Once again, you can consult https://itsaboutlove.org for more information on both natural parents and requirements for potential adoptive parents.)

That way the child can be adopted by a “good mormon family” and be sealed to the church upon their 11th year.

Adopted children are not sealed to the “church.” They are sealed to their adopted parents. At no time is anyone “sealed to the ‘church’.” Any sealings are between husband and wife or parents and child(ren).  If parents have been sealed in the temple prior to the birth of their natural child, then that child is “born under the covenant” and is considered sealed to them with no further ordinance needing to take place.

And I am not sure where the “11th year” thing comes from. All adopted children are eligible to be sealed to their adoptive parents upon finalization of adoption papers, regardless of the child’s age –11 days, 11 months, or 11 years (reference forthcoming).

Second, if the mother and father are both mormon, the church will force a marriage if at all possible.

Force is a mighty strong word.  Encourage or suggest, but definitely not force.

“When a child is conceived out of wedlock, the best option is for the mother and father of the child to marry and work toward establishing an eternal family relationship.” (www.lds.org; Gospel Library; Gospel Topics: Adoption)

Also:

Third, mormons truly believe that the male is the only line to god – therefore to reach god, women and children not of the age of maturity (under 11 years) have to reach heaven through their earthly father/husband. Then, and only then, can the people of the church become gods and goddess’s, for they are then accepted into gods house.

???? Not even sure how to refute this because I don’t even understand where this erroneous belief originates.  Members of the LDS church do not “truly believe that the male is the only line to God.”   My husband came home for lunch and was reading this over my shoulder and he got a good chuckle out of this comment. We both did.

Within LDS theology, my personal salvation as a woman and my ability to be “accepted into Gods house” are not dependent on my husband.  My ability to “reach heaven” is dependent only my own faithfulness and my acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (references forthcoming).  Same goes for my children. Their salvation is between them and God and is not dependent on their father.  And that 11 years old as being the “age of maturity” thing again – where does that come from? I am wondering if you are confusing the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (AKA the “Mormons”) with polygamist groups/ splinter sects that live in AZ and TX.

All the crap they do to ensure the child stays within the church, that is all about the procreation requirement for families. Currently families are not required to have as many children as humanly possible and a few have only a few. But the average family can have up to 20+ children.

“Procreation requirement”????  I have never in my entire 37 years in the LDS church ever heard of a “procreation requirement.” Do you happen to have documentation from official LDS sources that state as much because I would be very interested in exploring it further.

Also, the contention that the “average” LDS family has up to 20+ children has no basis in empirical data.  In fact, current studies show that most LDS families have only one child more than that national average. This means the average LDS family has 3.13 children (though no one can have .13 of a child so most have three kids, some have four).

Additionally, here is current advice given to church members regarding family planning:

“Children are one of the greatest blessings in life, and their birth into loving and nurturing families is central to God’s purposes for humanity. When husband and wife are physically able, they have the privilege and responsibility to bring children into the world and to nurture them. The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is a private matter for the husband and wife.” (www.lds.org; Gospel Library: Gospel Topics: Birth Control)

Also:

“Husband and wife are encouraged to pray and counsel together as they plan their families. Issues to consider include the physical and mental health of the mother and father and their capacity to provide the basic necessities of life for their children.  Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple.” (www.lds.org; Gospel Library: Gospel Topics: Birth Control)

Interestingly enough, the LDS church is not 100% anti-abortion either.

“Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth….Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.” (www.lds.org; Gospel Library: Gospel Topics: Abortion)

If these children remain in the church (surprisingly – not – many do not) the chance of the parents, specifically the father, will become as god, or a god.

In the LDS church, we believe that men and women will be held accountable for their own choices. A parent’s personal salvation has absolutely nothing to do with a child’s choices in life and whether he or she remains active or not or not in the LDS church (references forthcoming). (Ask Marie Osmond about this or Chelsea Handler’s parents, or Amy Adam’s parents).

For adoption purposes, the child that is pulled back into the church, or just into the church, there is the added bonus of having a member of the church that is unlikely to want to find their parents – I know a lot of them.

I don’t necessarily think that anyone views this as a “bonus,” though it is fairly typical.  It is true that adopted persons are discouraged from seeking contact with their natural families. Here is the current policy regarding this:

Adopted Children and Their Natural Parents (p. 173)

Local Church leaders should discourage adopted children and their adoptive parents from seeking to identify the children’s natural parents.  When adopted children have genetic or medical problems, the family may seek medical information about the natural parents but should be discouraged from seeking their identities.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (2006). Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1 Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics 2006.  Salt Lake City: UT.)

LDS Family Services is currently selling something very different with their stance on “open” adoptions and this is one of my major beefs with them.  Either they are completely out of line with official church policy or the official church policy needs to be changed to match up with the product LDS Family Services is pushing.

A man I knew long ago was an adopted child. His adoptive, mormon, parents told him that his family just had too many children and they gave him to them because one more was just too many. However, the facts were even more simple. They had no male children. Therefore, adopting a male child from a family (because they can and do force poor families to give up children, either to adoption as infants or wives as teens) that was LDS in the first place made it highly unlikely that the child would want to look or that the parents would allow themselves to be found.

I really, really, really think there may be some confusion between the main-stream LDS church (headquartered out of Salt Lake City UT) and some other group, such as the splinter polygamist groups especially because of the statement “they can and do force poor families to give up children…(for) wives as teens.”  I have been a member  of the LDS church for 37+ years and lived in Utah for the majority of those years and have never known of a teenage girl being forced into or “given” in marriage because her parents were poor. (Or for any other reason!)  I have heard of it happening in polygamist splinter groups but they are not part of the mainstream LDS church.

The issue of infant adoption is almost always when a mother is unwed and unwilling/unable to marry the father. I have never heard of a married LDS mother placing a child for adoption simply because she was poor.  The LDS church has a large and well-functioning welfare system set in place to help any church family through difficult financial times (please see http://www.providentliving.org/ for more information.)

It seems I have spent half my day typing up my response and now my boys need dinner.  I am new at this whole speaking up about my adoption experience thing and still very tender in my efforts to reach out to others. I hope my addressing these comments directly do not offend – I am only trying to set the record straight about current LDS adoption practices (even though I think a most of them stink like the package of chicken breasts my mother-in-law left in her trunk for a week during the summer a few years ago. No…they stink worse than that too.)

Much love and belief –

M.

Can I have that white hot anger with a squeeze of lime, please?

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

The latest edition of the Ensign arrived the other day. This afternoon I read it. And then spent the rest of my day alternating between crying and being angry. Maybe it is just pregnancy hormones, but something tells me it’s not.

In this month’s edition, there is an article titled The Promise of the Temple. Smiling up from the glossy page is a picture of a near-perfect family: five beautiful children, a wonderful husband, and a glowing wife. The articles tells the story of a woman who married “outside the faith” and her journey back into full activity in the church, culminating in her family being sealed for all eternity in the Dallas Temple. For all intents and purposes, this is a good story – actually, a wonderful story of love conquering all, even the tragic death of one of her daughters.

However, I didn’t even make it through the first couple of paragraphs before I literally threw the magazine across the dining room and started sobbing into my half-eaten lunch. The article made me angry, so very very very angry.  And this is why: In the LDS adoption world, young mothers are told over and over and over again that one of the most important “gifts” they can give their child are parents who are sealed together in the temple for all eternity.  She is also told that she (as the single, unwed mother) simple does not qualify and will most likely never qualify for that privilege if she decides to parent instead of relinquishing her child. She is told that adoption through LDS Family Services:

“…ensures that the child will be sealed to a mother and a father in the temple, and it enhances the prospect for the blessings of the gospel in the lives of all concerned. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses the birth parents, the child, and the adoptive family.” (www.lds.org under “Gospel Topics: Adoption“, emphasis mine)

But…but…but…but what about that woman in the article?  She wasn’t sealed in the temple when she started having children.  That means her children were just as “bereft of the sealing ordinance” as you were but for some reason…for some reason it was OK for them but not for you. Sure she was married, but she wasn’t sealed in the temple to her (at the time) non-member husband.

If adoption in the LDS faith is really about ensuring children being sealed to temple worthy parents, then why wasn’t she told by her Bishop to relinquish her young children for adoption?  By her own admission, she didn’t feel like living up to the standards to qualify for temple attendance at that time. According to LDS Family Services rhetoric, wouldn’t relinquishing her children for adoption by a temple-worthy couple have been the most “unselfish, loving  decision” for her to have done? If it was for me, then why not her too?

The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Are her children any more precious and valuable to her than you are to me?   And why did this woman get the support she needed while parenting her children to help her family eventually attain the blessings of the temple but I never did while I was parenting you? Why was I told that relinquishing you the absolute best way to show that I loved you?

Like me, was she ever told that since her children weren’t “born in the covenant,” they would most likely never qualify for the blessing of being sealed to parents? You can bet she was never once told something like that – she was only offered encouragement, support and unyielding love from her leaders in her decade long journey to the temple as she parented her un-sealed children.

Why wasn’t I? Was she inherently more worthy than me? Were her children more special than you? I ask again: If relinquishing you to adoption so you could be sealed to temple-worthy parents was the most “unselfish, loving  decision” I could make simply because I could not provide you with that benefit at that time, then what about every woman in this church who has a child with a man to whom she is not sealed in the temple? Shouldn’t she be encouraged to relinquish her child(ren) for the exact same reason?

All of this leaves me wondering if adoption in the LDS culture is less about sealing children to parents than it is about something else. What? I don’t know. But it just seems so paradoxical that on one hand, the “right” of a child to be sealed trumps a mother’s right to parent but on the other hand, that “rule” isn’t universally applied to all mothers who have children.

Needless to say, my outburst startled the Professor and brought Mr. Amazing Man in from the library to see what was wrong.  Even Captain Knuckle turned off the Wii and peered over the back of the couch as I sat there and ranted. As always, Mr. Amazing Man said all the right things and comforted me in all the right ways (God bless him for that).  The Professor hugged me and told me that he loved me even though I was so sad and mad.

It was just what I needed right then: unconditional, unfettered love and support, regardless of my shortcomings. I just wish there had been more of it in my life 17 years, 7 months, and 18 days ago.

Much love and belief,

M.

Have you considered…?

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I was over at the LDS Family Services website a few months ago, trying to see if they had any information/support/services available for post-relinquishment mothers such as myself. While I didn’t find what I was hoping to find, I did find this list of questions. It is intended as a tool to help single mothers who are considering parenting their child think through a wide range of things.  As I read through the list, I started laughing. I actually had to call my mom because I thought it was so funny.

And this is why I found it so hilarious: Why is it perfectly fine for LDS Family Services to ask a woman who is single and considering parenting these kinds of questions but not all those fresh-out of high school, newly married (in the temple, of course), stars-in-their eyes women these same questions? Aren’t they valid questions for any person considering to be a parent? And if they are, where are these questions found on the LDS Family Services website for married women who might be considering parenting? Oh that’s right…they don’t have one of those.

And come on, let’s be honest. What woman between the ages of 18-25 has the financial stability to be a parent, unless she is a trust fund baby herself?  If she is anything like the typical married LDS woman at that age, her husband is still in school (dental or law, of course) and she is most likely working to support him. And what 18-25 year old woman is aware of community resources that could help her unless someone has told her? And how many struggling newlyweds have already started a college fund for their children, especially when they are most likely still in school themselves?  I could go on and on this morning, but I will save that for another post.

I guess what makes me roll my eyes and giggle the most is that both my mother and my mother-in-law would have answered the questions pretty much the same way I did at 19, married or not (just an FYI, they were both married  by the time they were 19 AND had a baby).  In fact, I bet my friends who were married when they were 18/19/20 (and trust me, there are pleeeeeennnnntttttyyy of girls like that in the LDS community) would answer the questions pretty much the same way I would have at that same age. Why they weren’t told to place their babies for adoption because they didn’t know the basics of child development, or have plans, budgets, college savings for their future children, and resources of every kind, I will never know.

So enjoy, Ms. Feverfew, and savor the delicious irony of it all.

Much love,

M.

Have you considered

  • Do you have a strong desire to be a mother right now?
  • Do you have information on all of your options and have you taken time to carefully consider each of them?
  • Do you have realistic expectations about what it would be like to be a single parent?  Would you be the sole caregiver of the baby or would your parents, the father, or other caregivers be involved or even take over?
  • What are your plans for the future? How will raising a child affect those plans?  How will a baby affect your likelihood of going to school or getting a good job?
  • Do you have the financial stability to be a parent?  Have you prepared a budget outlining expenses you should expect in raising a child?  Will your baby have access to regular medical care?
  • Are you prepared to ask others for help?
  • Do you live in a home where you could care for a newborn?  Is it an emotionally and physically safe place for a child?
  • Do you think that the home you provide will be the best one for your baby?
  • Do you know about the basics of child development? Nutrition? Discipline?
  • Are you aware of community resources or programs that could help you?
  • How much time will you be spending at work or at school?  How much spare time would you have?
  • Who would your support system be if you decide to parent? Would that help and support be steady over the next 18 years?
  • What is your relationship with the father?  How involved would he be?  How prepared is he to be a father?  How involved would you like him to be?  Are your expectations for his help realistic given your current situation?  If the father is not involved, are there men in your life that could be a consistent male role model?
  • How would you maintain friendships?
  • Do you plan to get married someday? How will having a child affect those plans?
  • Would you date?  What will your social life be like?  How would you determine when to tell those you date that you have a child?
  • Who would take care of your baby when you are away?
  • How do you plan to discipline your child?
  • Are there a friends or family members you can talk with about their experience as a single parent?
  • Are you ready to put a child’s needs before your own throughout his or her life?
  • Will you be able to save for your child’s future education?
  • Do you effectively manage feelings of anger and frustration? Can you control your emotions so that you don’t take them out on others?
  • Would counseling help you better understand the realities of being a single parent?
  • The more honest you are with yourself, the more likely it is that you will make a solid decision about what is best for you and your baby.

God doesn’t do adoption ~ He is into being born again

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

If I hear one. more. stinkin. time. of how adoption is a part of God’s plan for His children because it is how we become the children of Christ, I think my head is going to pop off and spin around while flames start shooting out of my eyes. Especially from Mormons who claim to have the further light and knowledge of the fullness of the restored gospel.

I recently shared my feelings about the LDS Family Services flimsy excuse for why adoption is a natural thing because  we are all “literally adopted into our Heavenly Father’s kingdom”  with my mom. Her response was something along the lines of, “Well, you are right about that but we are all adopted by Christ as his children when we accept him as our Savior.” This is the same sentiment that  I have read on Christian adoption blogs of many kinds as an explanation why adoption is good, kind, benevolent, Christlike.

Uh…once again, maybe I missed that lesson in Sunday School.  From the distant memories of high school choir, the words from an African American spiritual come bubbling up:

Nicodemus was a man who desired to know how a man could be born when he is old. Christ told Nicodemus as a friend, “Man, you must be born again!” He said, “Marvel not man, if you want to be wise. Repent believe and be baptized.”

(Witness, Arranged by Jack Halloran)

Those words set me to thinking…man, you must be born again.  Christ told Nicodemus that to become His child, he had to be born again (see John 3:3, 7) . Not adopted. But born again. Now I don’t know about you, but I think there is a physiological difference between being adopted and being born.  Maybe I am over thinking things here, but I can’t seem to find anywhere in the scriptures where Christ talks about being adopted as one of His children – the metaphor is always becoming His child.

To the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes  the process of becoming a follower of Christ as thus: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…” (2 Cor. 5:17). Indeed, one of the primary messages of the Book of Mormon is that we can become the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ by being born again.

Mosiah 5:7 : And, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have come his sons and his daughters.

Mosiah 27: 25-26 : And the Lord said until me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures

Alma 5: 14 Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

Alma 7: 14 : Now I say unto you that ye must repent and be born again… therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

In the Doctrine & Covenants we find this:

D&C 5:16 : And behold, whosever believeth on my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit, and they shall be born of me, even of water and of the Spirit–

And perhaps the most direct scriptural discussion of what this process means can be found in Moses 6:59.

“…inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; “

Also, the topic of being “born again” appears 3725 times in the LDS Gospel Library as of today with authors ranging from current apostles and prophets as well as ancient ones, from  Sunday School lessons to articles in The Friend.  Seriously – go take a look at the titles of some of these talks and lessons. Obviously the concept of being “born again” as a requirement to become a son or daughter of Christ is not an unfamiliar one to the LDS people.

The symbolism used in both scripture and modern apostolic writings is one of literally being born – becoming a new creature in Christ, having a new countenance – it is not a metaphor of adoption. If I was merely adopted as a daughter of Christ, I would remain the same person I was before the adoption occurred just with a new name (and a falsified birth certificate). However, according to the doctrine I can find, I am literally remade through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I don’t even begin to claim to understand the actual process of how this occurs – perhaps this is why Christ cautioned Nicodemus to “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).  All I know is that when a person accepts Jesus Christ and enters into the waters of baptism, they are, as Paul said, made a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).  Just as I was physically born of water (amniotic fluid), blood (my mother’s and my own, co-mingled in the birthing process), and of the spirit (when the breath of life entered my body), so am I born again in Christ. This time it is through the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit, and the atoning blood of Christ. Marvel not.

And this brings me back to my original grievance: There is no scriptural basis for using the process of becoming a follower of Christ to justify the unholy practice of infant adoption. To say otherwise is wrong. Period. Especially with the further light and knowledge that we claim to possess as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Our scriptures and modern-day prophets clearly proclaim that we are not adopted into Christ’s family, but that through baptism and the Atonement, we are born into it and we become his literal children.

That’s all I have to say about that. For now.

Much love and belief –

M.

God Doesn’t Do Adoption: “Is you is or is you ain’t?” (Or in other words: A question for Fred Riley of LDS Family Services)

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

So, in an effort to help me understand, clarify, and hopefully reconcile my feelings as an LDS mother seeking spiritual harmony in a post-adoption kool-aid life, I came across an article recently in the Ensign.  Really, I am trying to be a good Mormon, I honestly am. I am trying to study this thing out on my own and to take my concerns to the Lord in prayer. However, in my efforts to sincerely seek peace, I keep getting smacked upside the head by articles like this one. In a section titled “Latter-day Saint Theology and Adoption” found in the article “Why Adoption?” (Ensign, Jan 2008), Fred Riley of LDS Family Services is quoted as saying,

“From the time of Adam, adoption has been a priesthood ordinance,” says Brother Riley. “It’s a principle of the gospel that probably all of us will experience at some point as we’re literally adopted into our Heavenly Father’s kingdom.”

Uh…am I the only one who sees a fundamental flaw in this statement?   Doesn’t this idea fly in the face of some of the most clearly dileneated LDS doctrine?

Is it just me Ms. Feverfew, or are we not taught from the time we are small children that we are the literal off-spring of God, created in His image – not adopted into his household? Remember that Primary Song, I Am a Child of God? It clearly states the doctrinal point on this issue : “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here…” Or how about the Young Women theme which says, “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us…” According to the LDS.org website, this theme “helps each young woman understand her identity, purpose, and destiny as a daughter of God”  (emphasis mine). Not the adopted daughter, but the literal daughter of the King of Heaven.

Or what of Joseph B. Wirthlin’s statement, “It is essential that you know and understand that our Heavenly Father loves you like a son or daughter, because He is the Father of your spirit. That makes you His literal child, spiritually begotten of Him.”

Or the article titled “You Are a Child of God” in which Russel M. Nelson reminds us of the importance of “knowing that we are literally children of God.”

Or what of our prophet, Thomas S. Monson who also reminds us  “that each of us is literally a child of God.”

Then there is “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” which states with undeniable clarity, “Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.”

I could go on and on with the quotes, but I won’t bore you to death. I think you get the idea.  (A simple search of the LDS Gospel Library using terms such as “literal child of God” or  “made in His image” will reveal hundreds of more of these kinds of quotes if you really want to knock yourself out).

But here are the things I have come to know in the past several years, Ms. Feverfew: I have a Father in Heaven who is crazy gaga head over heels in love with me simply because I am His daughter, created in His image. I am the literal daughter of The King.  With this knowledge firmly in place, I am left the nagging question for Brother Riley: Which is it – is you is or is you ain’t a literal child of God? You can’t have it both ways – you can’t be adopted and be a literal child of God.

Much love,

M.

P.S. I guess I have more questions for Brother Riley, such as where is it taught (either in scripture or official church publications) that adoption is a “priesthood ordinance“? Did I miss something somewhere in my study of the scriptures or in my temple worship?  Maybe I wasn’t listening carefully enough in Relief Society or missed the memo while I was busy serving in Primary (you know how that can be – we tend to miss a lot of announcements while we serve the children in the church, teaching them that they are the literal children of God).  Or maybe perhaps this is something they teach in priesthood quorums and forgot to mention to us women folk? I say those things mostly tongue-in-cheek, but really, I am perplexed. Where is the scriptural and doctrinal basis for that kind of statement? But I digress…

LDS Policy on Adoptees Searching for Their Birth Parents

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

In case you were curious as to what the LDS church’s official stance is on searching for family of origin, here is it, straight from the Handbook of Instructions.

Adopted Children and Their Natural Parents (p. 173)

Local Church leaders should discourage adopted children and their adoptive parents from seeking to identify the children’s natural parents.  When adopted children have genetic or medical problems, the family may seek medical information about the natural parents but should be discouraged from seeking their identities.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (2006). Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1 Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics 2006.  Salt Lake City: UT.)

And this is why I despair of ever reuniting after relinquishing you within the LDS Family Services system.

In spite of this, I am doing the work necessary so that when and if you ever do decide to contact me, I will be ready and hopefully we can avoid the missteps and mistakes other mothers and daughters who have been reunited make. At least that is my plan.  As we know, reality is usually fraught with much more messiness than the clean, organized plans I come up with in the wee small hours of the morning.

Much love,

M.

P.S. February 17, 2011: Just thought I would update this post. Things are changing within the LDS adoption community, in particular this outdated and archaic stance on adoptees and their natural families. Read more about it HERE.