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.

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10 thoughts on “Clearing up some misconceptions

  1. Amazing! This is so well written and researched! I love it. I agree that the other blogger seems to confuse LDS with FLDS and I think your responses are very clear and very true.

    I am sitting here jaw dropped over the quote from the HANDBOOK about adoptive parents being discouraged from contacting natural parents. We were never told that, which is good, but why would that be a church policy? And you’re right, that isn’t what LDS FSA is saying now about open adoption.

    It doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of the child at all, or in the best interest of the mother. Maybe it is something outdated that needs to be brought up to the research of current adoption studies.

    I don’t know if you are on the FSA mailing list (haha) but they just sent an email today that they are holding a temple session and fast for adoption….to find more “birth families.” They are holding a powerpoint presentation this Thursday night that, if you attend, you can take back to your bishops for a 5th Sunday presentation in your wards. Evidently they need more “birth moms”. HMMMM…..
    So does that mean there are so many childless couples ready to pay out that FSA needs to provide babies???
    Or is this an OFFICIAL church stance that they are feeling that too many unwed mothers are keeping their babies and the “Brethren” feel they need to encourage these girls to “do the right thing” and place their babies for adoption?

    Which is it?

    Did I get a baby only because I wanted one?

    Or did I get a baby to “save its’ soul”??

    Am I just a means by which a baby gets the sealing blessings?

    Are you just a means to give a family a child??

    Meanwhile they are calling us “mothers” but not respecting what that means.

    The whole thing is very confusing.

    I emailed FSA and asked them in a very non-threatening way to tell me if this powerpoint was something they put together as and Adoption Agency….OR…..is this information coming from the Brethren themselves. I am not holding my breath for a response back.

    Anyway. Your post was brilliant. VERY nice job. It was probably worth ignoring your children over:)….they’ll live. 🙂

    • Shannan –

      Yeah, the boys didn’t mind me ignoring them – they got to play Lego’s Star Wars on the Wii all day long and then go sledding with the neighbors after lunch. Tough gig being my kid, let me tell you.

      And what is this about LFD FSA? I assume you mean Families Supporting Adoption, right? “they just sent an email today that they are holding a temple session and fast for adoption….to find more “birth families.” I think I feel a little sick to my stomach…no, really sick to my stomach – you know, that dizzying, spinning out of touch with reality kind of sickness the makes the bile rise up the back of your throat. That’s what this makes me.

      It seems like this might be about finding infants for families and not about finding children who are truly in need of help. If this really was about helping children who truly needed families, LDS FSA folks would be lined up outside their local foster-to-adopt agencies, willing to foster those deemed unadoptable by many – the disabled, the abused, and the older children. But no…they are going to hold a special temple session to fast and pray about finding more babies! ACK!

      You are right this whole thing is very confusing – starting with the fact that LDSFS practices are diametrically opposed to stated church policy and working it’s way through all sorts of other confusion, myths, and outright moral injustices. For example, there is the adoption planning advice given to potential adoptive parents “Consult with your caseworker about what questions may not be appropriate, such as seeking information about the birth father too soon.” Whaaaaaaaaaat???? Are they serious? Stop right there for a minute – why would asking about the birth father NOT be appropriate? Is it because many fathers would move heaven and earth to parent their child had they been told about their child prior to the adoption occurring? Is it because the potential adoptive parents might find out that the birth father has been lied to and if they go through with the adoption then they are complicit in the deceit as well? (My feelings about this whole aspect is a whole ‘nother discussion for a whole ‘nother day.)

      I am very interested in hearing FSA’s response to your email. Thanks again for chatting with me via these clumsy comment sections. I look forward to hearing more…

      M.

  2. This is a very interesting blog. I got here via FMF. My husband and I lived in Salt Lake City for a year in the 70s and I got interested in Mormon issues. I am Catholic, my husband is non-religious Jewish. I have been reading an ex-Mormon forum for a while, and when adoption comes up there, it confirms what you are saying as a practicing member of LDS. Many mothers and adoptees have been treated shabbily by that Church and its agencies.

    From what I know of LDS theology, I agree that L. seems to be confusing FLDS with LDS practice. She has written she grew up in foster care as well as being a mother who surrendered , so she may only know what she was told as a child and the people who raised her may have been from a FLDS splinter group.

    Also, it seems that LDS beliefs and practices have changed over the years, such as changes to the Temple ceremony in 1990, Blacks allowed the Priesthood in 78, and a de-empahsis on the doctrine of becoming Gods in the afterlife. So what L. was taught may no longer be current practice.

    Anyhow, I am glad you are here as a resource to practicing LDS birthmothers and adoptees. You probably know that LDS are the biggest supporters of NCFA which was formed to oppose open records. LDS social service has always put great pressure on unwed mothers to surrender as the “right thing”. Catholic Charities in many places is a big offender too, so I am not just knocking your relgion:-) Many religious agencies have policies and practices that are dishonest, coercive, and very un-Christlike.

    • Maryanne –

      Welcome to my little blog. And yeah, I know that the LDS are the biggest supporters of NCFA…totally pathetic if you ask me. ESPECIALLY when it comes to the open records issue. You would think that an organization that places such a huge emphasis on genealogy would be totally supportive of open records!!! It’s another one of those adoption paradoxes that I just don’t get and don’t think anyone will be able to adequately explain away.

      Your observation about many religious based adoption agencies, LDS or otherwise are spot on: their policies and practices are frequently dishonest, coercive, and very un-Christlike.

      M.

      (P.S. My mom was raised a Catholic and then joined the LDS church at 14. I guess it was in the stars for her to have a big family, eh?)

    • Oh my, Shannan. Where to begin, where to even begin.

      NCFA is the acronym used by the largest non-profit adoption services lobbying group in the US, the National Council for Adoption. LDS Family Services agencies represent 26% of the 197 member agencies of the NCFA. I am trying to track down actual data and numbers, but I have read that the LDS church is one of the largest financial donors to NCFA as well, regularly attaining “Platinum Donor” status each year. (Ever wonder where some of your fast offerings are going? To help prevent adoptees from accessing their original birth certificates! Brilliant eh?)

      In regards to open records and open access, NCFA actively lobbies against efforts to unseal original birth certificates of adoptees. You can read about the NCFA’s latest state legislative efforts at: http://www.adoptioncouncil.org/policy/state_leg.html_. Interestingly, 5 out of the 8 current efforts are targeted towards keeping original birth certificates out of the hands of the people they rightfully belong to: The adoptee. (Two of the remaining three oppose second-parent adoption and the third is in regards to “Safe Haven” laws.) The NCFA does this under the guise of “protecting” natural families and makes the scurrilous claim that more abortions would happen if natural family’s identity is made available to adoptee. You can read more about it here: https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/resources/privacy_concerns.html

      The NCFA also uh…um…”pioneered” the Infant Adoption Training Initiative which has perfected the fine art of convincing coercing single mothers to relinquish their newborn infants for adoption. (Me thinks I need to go rinse my mouth out with soap and water now….)

      *sigh* They really are a piece of work and I was shocked to discover the ties that bind LDS Family Services and NCFA together so tightly.

      M.

  3. i do believe that it is coming from the brethren to ‘find more birth families’ , fast, temple, pray etc… as i have heard that from more than one caseworker in more than one state at various FSA meetings the last few months, (i love ‘spying’ on lds fs at their FSA education mtgs – esp when i get to stick up for the birthmoms who were smeared by lds fs and tell acouples to stop being evil in their open adoption!)

    anywhooo, apparently the church is going to start ‘eating’ more of the adoption costs to help more families afford adoption via lds fs and they are changing the rules as to how many kids you can have to be eligible to adopt via lds fs.

    these are the last days my friend 😉 teehee

    ps. i pretty much hate lds family services, i grew up in the church, but am not currently active. although my dad is serving as a bishop.

    • birthMOM –

      Thanks for the insight. I am going to do some poking around of my own and see what I can turn up too. Like I told Shannan the other day, I get a little sick to my stomach even thinking about this. They are praying that more single women will get pregnant and relinquish their babies???? That is simply…sick.

      And don’t even get me started about how LDSFS subsidizes adoptions with the general fast offering funds and other donations. That makes my blood boil because one of the primary reasons the LDS church pushes adoption on young mothers is because we can’t “afford” to have a child. Somehow it’s OK to be poor and a parent if you are married but not poor and a parent if you are single. In fact, if you are married, gosh, they will even help you out financially!!! Just another one of those LDS adoption paradoxes I don’t quite understand.

      *sigh.* There seem to be a lot of them…

      M.

      P.S. Maybe you can ask your dad about the discrepancy between the Handbook’s advice on adoptees seeking their natural families and the bill of goods LDSFS is currently serving. I would be interested in hearing his take on why they are such conflicting things.

  4. I had a big fight with my parents over the church policies and adoption. They just see things as so black and white. “We adopted these babies and the ‘birthmommies’ go on to live a more healthy happy life knowing they did what was best for their baby.” Argh!! I hate this mentality.
    It’s like everyone in the LDS community expects my family to look and act and feel just like theirs…but we are not just like everyone else. We have three moms and three dads and three races and complex feelings to sort through. And where is the doctrine?
    My sister had a baby out of wedlock but my parents claim she did the right thing by keeping the baby because her (stupid) boyfriend was agreeing to marry her and because she was older and blah blah blah.
    So I STILL don’t understand what is the churches angle:
    -babies need to have the sealing blessing ASAP so get them an adoptive temple worthy mom and dad

    or

    -here is a childless couple quick…give them a baby!

    It feels like both answers are ridiculous and I everyone is just believing what works for them.

    I don’t believe that anyone is praying or fasting that more girls will get pregnant! But I do think they are praying that more girls will place their babies for adoption!! WHY!!!! Why doesn’t the bishop say, “What can we do to help you get your baby and YOU back on track and happy and stable?”

    And The NCFA business is really disturbing especially when you mentioned that fast offerings and tithing support it. I don’t understand why the church would advocate for closed adoptions. I am really really really really disappointed.

    • Ugh. Family fights over LDS adoption policy are brilliant, aren’t they? I am sorry that you have had your share of them. 😦

      WHY!!!! Why doesn’t the bishop say, ‘What can we do to help you get your baby and YOU back on track and happy and stable?’ “

      And this, Shannan, is what has kept me up for many nights over the past 17 years. Why, why, why, WHY!!!!???? Why didn’t my Bishop say that to me instead of telling me the only way my daughter would ever be happy and stable is if I relinquished her for adoption????? What did he and my mother see in me that was so broken, so horribly defective to disqualify me from parenting other than the simple fact that I had gotten pregnant before I got married?

      It wasn’t as if I was some crack-whore addict sleeping in the back of my car and pimping myself out for food money. My daughter wasn’t being abused. She wasn’t neglected in any sense of the word. I was going to church every week, I was in school, I had a job, I had great child care for her while I was in classes. If there had been one person in my life who would have told me I was doing a great job (which I now know I was) instead of telling me what an absolute disaster of a life me and my daughter were destined for, my story would have been so different.

      The Good Professor just came downstairs and climbed up on my lap. I guess that is my signal that I need to set aside this adoption stuff for now and join real life.

      Thanks for your thoughtful responses, Shannan. I really appreciate them.

      M.

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