Friday, September 5, 2008

Adoption and the Mormon Church

My surrendered daughter Rebecca is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS, Mormon). In spite of a childhood marred by not knowing her origins, she accepts without question the Church’s precepts that all unmarried mothers should surrender their children for adoption. This doctrine is founded not only on the Church’s concepts of morality but on its beliefs about family and immortality.

The Mormon Church advises couples who conceive a child 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. If a successful marriage is unlikely, they should place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Family Services. … Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses the birth parents, the child, and the adoptive family.” (Quotations are from the Church’s website, www.LDS.org.)

According to Mormon doctrine we are put on earth to work towards perfection. After our death and resurrection, we will stand “before the Lord to be judged according to our desires and actions. Each of us will accordingly receive an eternal dwelling place in a specific kingdom of glory.” The kingdoms of glory in descending order are the Celestial the Terrestrial, and the Telestial Kingdoms. Those who are unworthy will be called the sons of perdition and “will have to abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory. After death we may be reunited with family members who are in the same kingdom.

The Church’s rules on family formation are set forth in its 1995 “Proclamation to the World.”

“…Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and … the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

“…God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

“ Individuals who violate covenants of chastity … will one day stand accountable before God. … The disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

By surrendering her child for adoption, a natural mother “ensures that the child will be sealed to a mother and father in the temple” and thus may have “an eternal family relationship” after death. Surrendering the child allows unmarried parents to atone for violating the covenant of chastity and “enhances the prospect for the blessing of the gospel in the lives of all concerned.” Finally, surrender protects society against disintegration and calamity.

If the threat of being excluded from a kingdom of glory is not enough, the Church adds the familiar arguments:

“Young women who choose adoption are more likely to complete high school and go on to higher education. They are more likely to be employed and less likely to live in poverty or receive public assistance. They are also less likely to repeat out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

Children who grow up without their fathers are three times more likely to have a child of out of wedlock, twice as likely to drop out of high school, and two to three times as likely to have emotional or behavioral problems, and they often become the poorest of the poor.”

Each ward (a church organizational unit of about 200 families) has a volunteer adoption counselor. The counselor contacts pregnant unmarried women, and if marriage is not possible or desired, refers them to LDS Family Services.

Each ward also holds an annual adoption promotion meeting during which the ward leader (bishop) reminds church members of the Church’s teachings on adoption. Adoptive parents provide favorable testimonials. The Church publishes articles it its monthly magazine Ensign urging pregnant single women to surrender their children.

Until recently, Mormon adoptions, like other adoptions, were closed. Now expectant mothers may select adoptive parents from profiles online and meet with them. The parties may agree to further contact.

The Mormon adoption mandate appears to be successful. Few Mormon women keep their babies. Those that do suffer condemnation from Church members. I have been told that while they can attend Church services, they are not permitted to participate in prayers nor sacred temple ceremonies.

This is the second of a series on the LDS Church and adoption-related issues.

Lorraine adding a note here:

The greatest most organized opposition to open records for adoptees comes from the National Council for Adoption. They send people to testify at hearings, they write letters, they have money to fight open records because they collect fees for adoptions...right?

And who make up a large--if not majority--of their agency members? The LDS adoption agencies. Given what Jane has reported (from their own website) NCFA will never support open records, and when any of you good soldiers in the fight against stupid sealed records come up against them...this kind of information should be made known to your legislators. NCFA must lose! NCFA not now, NCFA (Nik-Fa) never!

14 comments :

  1. Please see the link >

    http://about-orphans.blogspot.com

    Many thanks.

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  2. This blog sound like someone who either is misinformed about LDS beliefs, has an ax to grind, or both. I am an LDS male age 45. My wife, age 44, and I are adopting an infant this month through LDS Family Services. The birth mother is age 38 and can barely support herself much less an infant. The birth father is not intersted in fulfilling his responsibilities. Our adoption of this baby is in the best interest of the baby and the birth mother. The child will have both a father and a mother who have a stable and loving home.

    Let's examine some of the ridiculous statements in this blog:

    "insistence that single mothers surrender their babies" -- not true...the choice is soley the birth mothers'...the LDS faith recognizes the freedom an individual to choose...this is true is an all aspects of the LDS faith from serving a full time mission to paying tithing to holding a volunteer job (calling) in the Church. LDS believe the freedom to choose is a fundamental Christian doctrine taught by Jesus Christ.

    "...putting pressure on infertile couples to adopt" -- Baloney!...What is your source for this statement? My wife and I are infertile and never have we been pressured to adopt. We have had nothing but love, understanding and support from our LDS Ward (congregation). This is especially true when we decided to adopt an infant at age 45 and 44, respectively. This notion the LDS Church "pressures" individuals to do something against their will is nonsense.

    "...Church actively promotes surrender and adoption" -- not true -- the Church encourages and counsels adoption for unwed parents. "Surrender" is inaccurate and a term used by someone who is misinfomed. What is the argument against placing a child in a home with a mother and father who have the means to care for the child?

    Jane's criticism of Marie Osmond is a common smear tactic that takes ncidents like Marie's personal problems as evidence that Marie is a bad mom. Additionally, Jane wrongly insinuates LDS adoptions are somehow flawed because Marie Osmond has had personal tragedy in her life. It's faulty logic. It would be like saying Jane is a miserable failure because she gave up her child for adoption.

    Jane's rant about open records fails to take into account the fundamental right to privacy for all parties involved in adoption. Jane: your rights end when they trample on mine.

    My overall impression is that Jane is a passive-aggressive woman who resents giving up her biological daughter for adoption. When Jane discovers how happy her biological daughter is, Jane became hostile to the daughter, the LDS Church and LDS beliefs. Jane: stop blaming other people for your unhappiness. Look inward.

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  3. I also am LDS. Not only was I adopted through LDS Socials services but I am also a single mother. My ward is nothing but supportive of me. It was my choice to keep my child. I'm sorry that you are so angry. Prayer is a wonderful blessing. Be happy that your daughter has a wonderful life. Isn't that what you wanted for her?

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  4. A couple of LDS Church members disagree with my statements about the Church and adoption, peppering their comments with personal attacks on me. Noteworthy is that the writers do not support their arguments with quotations from official LDS literature as I did.

    The writers claim that the Church does not force women to give up their babies which, of course, it cannot legally do. It does, however, put considerable pressure on them to do so as I have learned from sobbing Mormon women in support groups. The Church uses theological arguments bolstered with faux sociological ones. According to Church doctrine, the only family ordained by God is composed of a mother, father, and children, ("Proclamation to the World, 1995). Families which fail to meet this criteria must be "re-formed". (The narrow view of families also causes great pain to gay church members.)

    The Church also asserts that children are better off in unrelated two parent families than in natural one parent families. Experts in adoption including the Child Welfare League and the E. B. Donaldson Institute disagree, finding that children should remain with their birth families if possible.

    Of course, as Lee comments, the Church does not pressure people to adopt against their will; rather it bends their wills to get them to adopt. The Church holds adoption-promo sessions once a year where adoptive parents talk about the joys of adoption. These sessions do not include speeches by adoptees or birthparents.

    Adoption-friendly Utah is a haven for dishonest segments of the adoption industry. Utah laws undoubtedly reflect the views of its Mormon citizens.

    Finally, the Church opposes allowing adult adoptees to receive their original birth certificates even though birth mother organizations strongly support opening records. "The promise of confidentially" is simply a myth perpetuated by LDS Social Services, and others.

    It's ironic that a church founded by men who had so many wives and children that they could not remember all their names denigrates single mothers.

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  5. The comments on this really have me fuming!
    I was 15 from an active mormon family and the truth of the matter is Jane is right on in my case. I was set in front of the bishop of the church had many visits from church appointed adoption council and to this day feel like I was manipulated into givng up my daughter for the good of everyone. They were pushy and got rude went I went into labor without making a decision between family A, B or C. When I ended up choosing a family that was not from their stack of applicants they left me. Done no more contact no more help just done. Still today it sickens me how they push adoption so that young womens devil spawn can be in an eternal family and help save the girl that gave birth to it.
    I agree there are exceptions but at the same time what Jane said is reality for many.

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  6. hi, i worked for LDS Family Services and i placed a baby for adoption 16 years ago. i was NEVER coerced. i was not motivated to place so as to atone or make restitution for fornication but to provide my child with more and not less than i'd had. "good enough" wasn't good enough for him when i knew more was available.
    within the church there are many more who parent than place for adoption and they are absolutely not ostracized or looked down on in any way for their choice to parent. they have the same opportunity to repent and return to full privileges within the church as those who place. in fact there is ample counsel to assist single parents and their children.
    the percentage of those who place babies for adoption IS higher within the LDS faith than the national average for the (valid) of the reasons you sited.
    i love adoption and am SO grateful for my experience with it. i know there are many birth parents and even adoptees from what i call "the dark ages of adoption" who are very angry about adoption, and with good cause. unethical practices were commonplace and i don't fault anyone for raising their voice against THOSE practices and i ache for the victims of it. had i been coerced, had it been anyone's choice but my own...i can't imagine how i'd ever come to peace. i'm so sorry.
    but please try to distinguish the difference. there IS such a thing as beautiful adoption. that blesses all. please try to find a way to validate and process your experience without hurting others. it won't heal you.

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  7. Tamra, It is weird to see that you wrote that you "love adoption," because I couldn't help wonder if you thought about your child's reaction to your feeling that way. And then I read the last line, which I assume was a Freudian slip: It won't heal you. Freud says their are no such slips and you, and everyone, should know that we cannot make any change at all to the comments.

    I also noted that your work facilitating adoptions, which would of course validate your own experience. If others are "hurt" by reading what we and other first mothers have to say about our giving up our children, either long ago or last year, that is because they are still in pain themselves. If they were just fine, nothing we wrote could touch them.

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  8. Tamra, I was struck by this sentence in your comment "they [mothers who nurture their babies] have the same opportunity to repent and return to full privileges within the church as those who place."

    REPENT? What do these mothers have to do to repent? Aren't they punished enough, either by losing their baby or suffering the opprobrium of coming to church each week with a baby and no husband?

    Giving your child to strangers in order to provide him with "more," sounds like crass materialism. A mother's love IS good enough for a child.

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  9. Somehow I missed this post but just wanted to comment on this comment by "Lee" a prospective adoptive parent.

    "Jane's rant about open records fails to take into account the fundamental right to privacy for all parties involved in adoption. Jane: your rights end when they trample on mine."

    So you are saying that YOU have rights to deny the adoptee the right to know their family? Really? Can you provide a link to where that is written in law?

    Exactly what right is lost to the adopting parents?

    What about when that lack of equal rights harms the adoptee? Oh right - adoptees never need family health history (not the one off at the time of adoption)...or they can't get a passport, security clearance, etc...

    It should be everyone's fundamental right to a true factual record of their birth - not just the non-adopted.

    Regardless, the court has always been able to unseal an original birth certificate, so no one has ever been granted the absolute right to privacy. Just because the adoption agency says you can have privacy does not mean it is so.

    And if you think constitutional right to privacy covers this - it doesn't - that is about the right for a citizen not to have government intrude - not citizen to citizen...

    Good grief...insecure?

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  10. This is a copy of the LDS 1st Presidency letter 2002:

    “THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS OFFICE OF THE FIRST PRESIDENCY 47 EAST SOUTH TEMPLE STREET. SALT LA.KE CITY. UTAH 84150-1000
    June 26, 2002
    To:
    General Authorities and the following leaders in the United States and Canada: AreaAuthority Seventies; Stake, Mission, and District Presidents; Bishops and BranchPresidents; Auxiliary LeadersDear Brethren and Sisters:Adoption and Unwed Parents
    (To be read in high priests group, elder’s quorum,
    and Relief Society meetings only.)
    "Parents and priesthood and auxiliary leaders are encouraged to teach members to live chaste and virtuous lives and prepare to receive the ordinances of the temple. Children sealed to parents have claim upon the blessings of the gospel beyond what others are entitled to receive. When a man and woman conceive a child out of wedlock, every effort should be made to encourage them to marry.

    When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely due to age or other circumstances, unwed parents should be counseled to place the child for adoption through LDS Family Services to ensure that the baby will be sealed to temple-worthy parents. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses both the birth parents and the child in this life and ineternity.

    Birth parents who do not marry should not be counseled to keep the infant as a condition of repentance or out of a sense of obligation to care for one’s own. Unwed parents are not able to provide the blessings of the sealing covenant. Further, they are generally unable to provide a stable,nurturing environment which is so essential for the baby’s well-being. Unmarried parents should give prayerful consideration to the best interests of the child and the blessings that can come to aninfant who is sealed to a mother and father.

    Sincerely your brethren"


    It sounds to me that the very fact that "Unwed parents are not able to provide the blessings of the sealing covenant." means that devout Mormon girls who want their babies to get the full blessings of the church feel pressured to relinquish their children so the child can get that blessing. To me, that sounds rather coercive.

    Btw Tamra, I've read your blog and seen your videos on the LDSFS sites. From your video, I thought you were in an open adoption so was surprised to read on your blog that you are in an adoption that closed when your son was 5. I see that you are hoping to open it up and I wish you a lot of luck.

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  11. C. this old post is coming up a lot; c. will you tell us where this is showing up?

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  12. 1) You linked to it in your latest post.
    2) Her blog comes up if you click on her name on her post.

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  13. wow, c. thank you for saying that. nothing yet but i feel peaceful still, so far.

    ReplyDelete

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