' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Has the LDS church changed its policies on adoption?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Has the LDS church changed its policies on adoption?

LDS Temple, Salt Lake City
First Mother Forum was heartened to learn from a reliable source that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is shuttering its adoption placement services now conducted through LDS Family Services (LDSFS). The Church's policies towards single mothers have been nothing short of punitive:* Marry the father or give up the baby. The Church used theological arguments bolstered with pop sociology to press its case. In many instances help was denied these women and, in fact, their parents were discouraged from helping them raise the children. We've met mothers who succumbed to Church pressure and we read their comments on FMF; years later, they still grieve over their lost children.

Ending adoption placements  at LDSFS may be a harbinger of change--or maybe not. The Church has not changed its policies stated in Handbook 2 Policies on Moral Issues regarding adoption:
"Church members who are single and pregnant are encouraged to go their bishop. By virtue of his priesthood office and calling [all bishops are men**], he can counsel with them as they make important decisions that affect their own well-being and that of their child. He can also help them begin the process of repentance, where appropriate. 
"...When  a man and woman conceive a child outside marriage, 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, the unmarried parents should be counseled to work with LDS Family Services to place the child for adoption, providing an opportunity for the baby to 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 in eternity.
"...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. Additionally, grandparents and other family members should not feel obligated to facilitate parenting by unmarried parents, since the child would not generally be able to receive the blessing of the sealing covenant. Further unmarried parents are generally unable to provide the stability and nurturing environment that a married mother and father can provide. Unmarried parents should give prayerful consideration to the best interest of the child and the blessings that can come to an infant who is sealed to a mother and father." 21.4.12 
Some mothers have reported that their bishop threatened them with excommunication*** if they kept their baby. Excommunication is not automatic, however. Mothers would have the right to appeal to a disciplinary council. The inability to receive the "blessing of the sealing covenant," though, would prevent the child from connecting in the afterlife with his mother as children of married parents can.

David McConkie
When LDSFS turns off the lights, how will adoptions be arranged? Handbook 2 covers this possibility. "If LDS Family Services is not available in the area, leaders should encourage the placement of the child for adoption with a temple-worthy couple through a local licensed agency." FMF fears that the bishops will send expectant mothers to agencies such as the notorious Utah-based A Act of Love, which is just a stones' throw from the LDS Temple in Salt Lake City. It's also possible that the Church will allow bishops to refer expectant single mothers to LDS attorneys such as David McConkie or Larry Jenkins, both champions of Utah laws which destroy families by denying natural fathers their rights.

While its policy is unchanged and the Church retains the machinery to make adoptions happen, its attitude towards fallen women--those needing to repent--has softened. Mormons report that it's not rare today to see unwed mothers in the Church. Handbook 2, Young Women Who Are Pregnant out of Wedlock or Who Are Unwed Mothers allows for them:
"If a young woman age 17 or older has a baby out of wedlock and chooses to keep the child, she is welcomed into Relief Society [the Church's organization for women], where she can be taught and helped in her new responsibilities.
"If a young woman under 17 has a baby out of wedlock and chooses to keep the child, the decision to participate in Young Women [the Church's organization for teen girls] is left to the prayerful discretion of the young woman, her parents, and the bishop. If the young woman participates in these classes and activities, the child should not accompany her." 10.12.4
The Church's greater tolerance is reflected in the remarks of Elder David Baxter, a member of the Church's inner circle. He specifically addressed unmarried parents in his speech at the April, 2012 General Conference. While earlier statements of church officials such as those in a 1995 Ensign article proclaimed "the gospel of Jesus Christ was given to bless all His children, without exception, regardless of the family situations in which they find themselves," the earlier remarks failed to address unmarried parents directly, referring only to those who are single "because of a variety of circumstance including death, divorce, and separation."

Elder Baxter, who was raised by a single mother, specifically addressed unmarried parents: "You may be coping with the challenges of single parenthood as a result of having taken a wrong turn outside of marriage, but you are now living within the framework of the gospel, having turned your life around." After discussing the difficulties single parents bear and encouraging them to "look up" rather than "being cast down," he concludes by asking members: "Is there more that you could do to support single-parent families without passing judgment or casting aspersions? Might you mentor young people in these families, especially providing for young men examples of what good men do and how good men live? (Faith, Fortitude, Fulfillment: A Message to Single Parents) (Emphasis added.)
All of this is a sign that the Mormon faith may be more accepting of change toward women, and single motherhood, within the church--a good sign. We have often criticized the push toward adoption, and sealed birth records of adoptees, that the Mormons have supported through their membership and fees paid to their lobbying organization, the National Council for Adoption. Perhaps without the membership of the LDSFS, the organization--the main organized opposition to opening sealed birth certificates--will lose much of its ability to work against reform in state after state. While the church is not yet repudiating its harsh pro-adoption policies, it is turning towards offering a measure of acceptance and help which may give unmarried parents the courage to keep their babies.--Jane
*The LDS Church won the Demon in Adoption award in 2011.
**A group of Mormons are pushing for the Church to ordain women. They are holding a meeting in Salt Lake City October 5.
***Romney urges single woman to give up her baby--or be outcast from LDS
Handbook 2, Policies on Moral Issues: Single Expectant Parents, 21.14.12
Handbook 2, Young Women Who Are Pregnant out of Wedlock or Who Are Unwed Mothers, 10.12.4
A Act of Love Adoptions
"Single Parent Families", Ensign, 1995
"Faith, Fortitude, Fulfillment: A Message to Single Parents"

Is LDS Family Services getting out of the adoption business?
Adoption in Utah: No place for birth fathers
Utah Laws designed to thwart birth fathers
Unwed Fathers Can't Win Against Mormons in Utah

Son by Lois Lowrey: A different kind of book today, one for the Young Adult market. Son, the last in a quartet of novels about a futuristic society, is the story of a young teen named Claire, who emerges from unconsciousness following a difficult birth to find that her child (or product) has been cut from her and is gone. In her world, people have different "tasks," and her child is assigned to others. She's not even supposed to know where he goes. But Claire cannot forget him and finds where he is. One day he is gone from the society totally. Her determined effort and intense longing to find him takes her on an epic journey and confronts her with a nearly impossible choice, but one she makes unhesitatingly. For first mothers of any age, the themes in the book will resonate. I'd like to see Son passed out at those "crisis pregnancy centers" that encourage giving your child to others over any other choice.

Oddly enough, this book was left at my local recycling center where books are left for whomever comes by. Though I was not familiar with the author, the title and book jacket appealed to me and after I read the jacket copy I was hooked. The first in the series is called The Giver, the story of a 12-year-old boy's gradual disillusionment with an outwardly utopian futuristic society. The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal, the major award for children's literature; Lois Lowrey is the author of more than 30 YA novels and has won countless honors.--lorraine


  1. I love The Giver for many reasons, including the way only one person is required to remember the painful memories of its society. It's a powerful read that I think you will find relevant.

    Thank you for this information about the LDS' changing policies. I hope we will see some actual strides toward equality and justice.

  2. tchaiki:
    I was thinking that I ought to get a copy/ of The Giver. Thanks for seconding my feeling.

    1. Me, too. I read a few of the Lois L. books assigned to my sons in school back in the day, and they were all excellent.

  3. Focus of the Family reviews The Giver.

  4. I'm an adoptee. I used to be a Mormon. I was adopted through LDSFS. I was born outside of, and moved to, Utah... and I still live here. While I no longer have "first crack" at the news of the church (because I no longer attend meetings or read insider publications), I find it incredibly difficult to believe that LDSFS is either shutting down OR getting out of adoption (adoption is not all they do; in case you didn't know). I am hopeful, though, as I'd kinda love to see it happen. OTOH, I still don't have my records... so I wonder where they'd go. Hmmm...
    Anyhow, I LOVED The Giver! As I was reading the synopsis of Son, I thought, "That sounds a lot like the society in The Giver." If it's indeed a sequel (and not a prequel or a story set in the same time frame as The Giver), it will be interesting to see how they reconcile the ending of The Giver to the society still functioning essentially as it did before. I viewed that as impossible, given the ending. Hmmm... (again). :-) Thanks for the information -- and for your page which I love, share, and quote frequently. I hope with all I have that it's true! It won't solve everything (as you mentioned) but it's a start.


  5. Son is the final in the quartet of books that starts "The Giver." Jonas, the character from The Giver, is in "Son," so it does bring his character full circle.

    But I certainly didn't expect my short review of Son to elicit so many comments. Now I do feel I must read "The Giver," and maybe the ones in between--"Gathering Blue" and "Messenger."

  6. Anonympous, this is the link to the Giver synopsis at Focus On Family.


    Wait! It looks like exactly the same link. What is going on?

  7. It is slightly different, look closely. Second link works.

  8. I haven't read Son, but I have read Gathering Blue and Messenger. They were all right but not as good as The Giver. I found the end of The Giver to be frustrating, as I think others have, so it will be interesting to see whether I like Son as much as The Giver. By the way, don't read the reviews before the book unless you don't mind spoilers. :)

    Now I'm considering writing an adoption-centric review of The Giver. Thanks for the idea!

  9. My local library has The Giver plus a whole bunch of other Lois Lowrey books. I'll check it out.
    Son sounds interesting.

    Here's a preview of a new Britflick, adopted from the true-life story of Philomena Lee who, with the help of a disgraced journalist and political spin-doctor, sets out to find her adult son, sold into adoption from the Magdalene Laundries almost 50 years before.


  10. Wow! I had no idea that "The Giver" had follow up novels. I often find myself thinking back to the "birthmother" situation described in the book while thinking about adoption.

    "The Giver" was one of the few books you get assigned in school that I actually liked enough to re-read on my own later on. Also on this same night I learn there's follow up books... I also discovered that a movie for "The Giver" starts filming this week. Cast includes Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Katie Holmes. Hollywood loves to take a good book series and put it on screen. If the film in popular, maybe we could have the contents of "Son" on the big screen as well down the road raising more awareness. How neat!



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