Am I right or am I right?


Sit back, grab of a cup of hot cocoa and be prepared for a long read. Hopefully there is something of value in this letter.

Yesterday was a watershed day for me in many ways.  I did not write about everything that transpired, but let’s just say it was real, it was raw, and it was needed.  Let me also say I am eternally grateful for a loving, compassionate, and wise husband who loves me – all of me – even the real and raw parts of me.

One of the things I spent the day wrestling with God over was this issue of the “doctrine” of adoption that Sister Beck spoke of at the LDSFS/Families Supporting Adoption conference in August. This struggle with God went on all day – I ended up neglecting many of my responsibilities around the home. God bless Jeff  – literally – for coming home, putting his arms around me and holding me tight, then doing the dishes, making dinner, giving the wee ones baths and putting them to bed all while I stomped around behind him, jabbering and frequently cursing about all of this. There are few men finer than Jeff in this world – if more men could be like him, there would be a heck of a lot less sadness and heartache.

So back to Sister Beck and what she had to tell all those folks at the conference in August. This is what she said:

“The Atonement of Christ brings us that covenant and makes us heirs with Him, so that we have the same inheritance that He has with our Father,” she said.

It is through making covenants that individuals are adopted into the kingdom of God.

“It is very doctrinally based,” she said. “We believe in literal adoption, the literal gathering of bringing people into that covenant. … [Beck, J. (2011). “Rooted in Love.” As reported in Church News 20 Aug 2011].

Now maybe my version of the scriptures is different than hers. I highly doubt it since I have double checked to make sure I am using the most current edition of the LDS standard works, but…. The stuff I remember reading about covenants and the Atonement is about being born again through the blood of our Savior, the waters of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Last night, as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep, one of the last thoughts I had was, “God, either she is right or I am. We can’t both be right. Either we are adopted into the kingdom of God or we are born into it through the waters of baptism and the blood of Christ.”

When I got up this morning at 5:00 a.m. to take my older son to early morning seminary, I spent about 15 minutes reading in the Book of Mormon. The daughter of one of the ladies I Visit Teach is turning eight years old in October and  issued a challenge to the ward members to read the entire Book of Mormon by her birthday. I took her up on the challenge and have been reading about 10 pages a day in the wee small hours of the morning as Captain Knuckle gets ready to leave.

This morning, this verse was on the very first page I read:

“And now, 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 become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7)

Hmmm. It seems pretty clear in this particular verse from a scripture of the restoration. Begotten. Born. Because of the covenant. Is it just me, or am I not seeing adoption anywhere in that verse?

This led me to search out other scriptures (yet again) about the Atonement and becoming a son or daughter of Christ. This is what I found

“But as many received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 KJV)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:3, 18-19)

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world…” (1 John 5:4)

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 KJV

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:5-7, KJV)

“And the Lord said unto 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…” (Mosiah 27:25)

“…preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.” (Alma 5:49)

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experience this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5:14)

“Now I say unto you that ye must repent and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; 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…” (Alma 7:14)

“I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.”(Alma 36:23)

“And behold, whosoever 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 the of the Spirit– (D&C 5:16)

“That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and 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; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.” (Moses 6:59)

[An aside: I looooooove that it was Moses, a late-discovery adoptee, who was given the clearest explanation of what being “born again” entails.  God tells this man, this adoptee who has most likely spent a lifetime struggling with his identity, that to become a son of God, he has to be born again, just like he was born physically. To this prophet/adoptee, God clearly states that the process of sanctification from all sin is one of RE-BIRTH, not adoption.]

I think any reasonable, thinking adult can see those scriptures all point to being born as the way we become sons and daughters of Christ. However, even after reading all of them this morning, something in the back of my mind was bothering me. Sister Beck specifically said that adoption was “doctrine.” If it is doctrine, then certainly it must be found in the scripture, yes?  So I turned to “The Guide to the Scriptures” found on the www.lds.org website, and read this:

Adoption

The scriptures speak of two types of adoption.

(1) A person who is of non-Israelite lineage becomes a member of the family of Abraham and the house of Israel by having faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized by immersion, and receiving the Holy Ghost (2 Ne. 31:17–18; D&C 84:73–74; Abr. 2:6, 11). (my emphasis)

(2) All who have received the saving ordinances of the gospel become sons and daughters of Jesus Christ by continued obedience to his commandments (Rom. 8:15–17; Gal. 3:24–29; 4:5–7; Mosiah 5:7–8).

Interesting. Both of these instances point back to being baptized as the process through which people are “adopted” into the household of faith.  But…..didn’t all of those scriptures I just found tell me that ordinance of baptism is about being born again? And just a second there. Mosiah 5:7 is being used as a reference to support “adoption” as being the way that we become children of Christ?  Gosh, I could have sworn that it said very clearly we are born again.

“And now, 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 become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7)

Oh yeah. It does say “born of him” NOTHING about adoption.

So then I clicked through to the link “Children of Christ.” This is what I found.

Children of Christ

Those who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child is greatest, Matt. 18:1–4
  • Believe in the light that ye may be the children of light, John 12:36
  • Put off the natural man and become as a child, Mosiah 3:19, Mosiah 27:25–26
  • Because of the covenant ye shall be called the children of Christ, Mosiah 5:7
  • If ye will lay hold upon every good thing, ye certainly will be a child of Christ, Moro. 7:19
  • As many as received me, gave I power to become my sons, D&C 39:4
  • Fear not, little children, for you are mine, D&C 50:40–41
  • Thou art one in me, a son of God, Moses 6:68

Darn it all, there are those “pesky” words again: Begotten. Born again. Born of God. Sons and Daughters of God. No adopted.

Then I clicked through to:

Sons and Daughters of God

The scriptures use these terms in two ways. In one sense, we are all literal spirit children of our Heavenly Father. In another sense, God’s sons and daughters are those who have been born again through the atonement of Christ.

Dang it all, Sister Beck! There those words are again!!!! Atonement. Begotten. Born again. Born of God. Children of Christ.

Essentially, what I discovered this morning is the basis for claiming we are “adopted” into Abraham’s family is because we enter into the covenant of baptism, allowing the Atonement to take effect in our lives….which is clearly the process of being BORN AGAIN.  Which is not adoption. Ask any adoptee. Adoption and being born are two very separate things.

______________________________________

As I wrestle with this issue this morning, the only thing I can come up with is that members of the church play loose and fast with the word “adoption,” using it as a metaphor for being “born again.” Maybe I just need to get my proverbial doctrinal panties out of a wad and just go with the metaphor of adoption = being born.

But I can’t.

I know the difference on a very intimate level, much like Moses. Adoption is not a sufficient metaphor for the very real, very visceral, very messy and difficult process of being born again, of becoming a child of Christ. The Book of Mormon tells me very plainly that I am born again, made a new creation in Christ. It is another witness to what the Holy Bible teaches me about who I am and to whom I belong. The Book of Mormon, side by side with the Bible, clearly testifies I am born into the household of faith through the waters of baptism, the blood of the Atonement, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Born. Not adopted.

There is no other way. (John 14:6; D&C 132:12)

Much love,

M.

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13 thoughts on “Am I right or am I right?

  1. “”“And now, 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 become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7)
    Hmmm. It seems pretty clear in this particular verse from a scripture of the restoration. Begotten. Born. Because of the covenant. Is it just me, or am I not seeing adoption anywhere in that verse?””

    I guess it’s just you, it seems perfectly normal adoption double-speak to me! I just was reading a protestant TV-guide, and it said that the USA is greatly suffering from a lack of cynicism. It eexplains a lot.

    Read my poem by the way?

    • Lack of cynicism – LOL. Yes, we Americans do tend to be a bit optimistic about things, even when not warranted.

      I did read it – very insightful interpretation on what many of us first mom’s are going through/have been through. Thank you for sharing it with me.

      M.

  2. This and your previous post are heart wrenching to me. I struggle with the Church’s position on adoption, but I don’t research it the way you do. I can’t…it’s too hard for me. I believe the gospel, and I can’t make sense of statements like Sister Beck’s that somehow it is doctrine that I was supposed to lose my son for eternity. I don’t want to be bitter or angry towards the Church, but if I spend too much time contemplating this it starts to make me question my testimony. I often feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place. I want to write to the Prophet and Sister Beck and every other leader in the Church and let them know what their statements and the policies of LDSFS do to women like us. I want to forward posts like yours to them somehow and know that they are read and prayed about to know what this is doing to Heavenly Father’s precious daughters who happened to make a mistake that they now have to pay for for the rest of eternity knowing that they have lost their children, not just for this lifetime, but forever. I wish I could give you a hug and then just sit and “understand” each other over a cup of hot chocolate. I have “met” so many first moms, but they almost always at different places then I am. Either they have left the church, or they believe that they did the “right thing” but none that struggle as much as I do, but still believe in the Church and it’s “other” teachings. I’m so sorry you are struggling so much right now…I’m glad your husband is so amazing!

    • Desi,

      Like you, I DO NOT want to be bitter or angry about the church. I love the gospel and the beautiful truths I have learned in the temple – in the pure doctrine of Christ I have found rest for my soul. But like you, I can’t make sense of statements such as Julie Beck’s, especially when I look to the scriptures for confirmation and find the complete opposite. I, too, want to write letters to the First Presidency and Sister Beck and ask for their help in clarifying this matter but I know they will just be returned to my local leaders to have them address them there, which as we know is a total crap shoot. So where does that leave women like you and me? Exactly where you observed – between a rock and a hard place.

      I have no plans to leave the church but I do plan on speaking my truth very clearly and very plainly. I am tired of living in that difficult, stiffing, and soul-stealing darkness between the rock and the hard place. I have spent the last three years fearful that if I do this, I will be excommunicated. However, if I am asked to leave for telling the truth, then at least I will have the peace of conscience knowing it was the church would left me, not me who left the church.

      Let’s talk some more offline (email me) about this – it sounds like you and I are about at the same place with all of this – knowing it can’t go on but not sure what the next step forward is.

  3. You ladies are strong to still hang on to the church who only accepts you because you placed your children. My personal relationship with God, it mine. I need no human to judge me, as I do everything with my heart in the right place, no matter who badly it hurts me. IMHO, the ‘words’ of God put down in any book are there only because a human put them there, and if we keep perspective, that all humans have agendas (some good some bad), and that we all do not think alike

  4. sorry typing on my smartphone at 5:45 am, my fingers still aren’t working as I want them to LOL. I’ll continue now…
    meaning, interpretation of words and the context they are used in, well, I’ll just say, can be completely different based on the experiences that we have gone through. (For example, Sister will never ‘know’ the joy to birth a child, nor will she ever know the destruction of a mother to relinquish a child. So, her interpretation of the words, based on her experiences, are going to be completely different than a mother or a mother who has relinquished. Which leads me to another point….how could she interpret and teach anyone what those words were intended to mean in the context of adoption? She has not ‘experienced it’, she has not lived it, because let’s remember she is ‘only’ human.

    It’s like me trying to learn from someone who has never lived either as a mother, or a first mother, and expecting them to be able to ‘teach’ me (or understand what it’s like) anything about living as either one of these lives. They can’t – they haven’t experienced the emotions, they haven’t experienced the judgements from other humans, they haven’t felt the pressures that society places on me to ‘suck it up’ and just move on because I did the right thing, and my son is loved, cared for and is being raised as a child of God, so I should accept that and be ok with it.

    That being said, I believe in God, I always do things with the best of intentions – never meaning to harm anyone, and as far as words written by humans in an attempt to ‘teach’ me what God wishes, well, I just use plain old common sense and am sure I understand their experiences as a HUMAN being as mentioned above before I allow my expectations to be set so high, and then I refer to the verse, ‘do unto others as you would have done to you.’ I also unfortunately trust to easily, and get hurt a lot because of that verse, however, it is who I am, how my heart is put together, and if I get hurt and it affects the person who hurts me in a positive manner – i.e. they change their ways and not hurt another person, then I was his tool, to help them become a better person, so be it.

    So, I live my life, keeping everything in perspective, and understanding that we humans are not perfect, and living my life with the best of intentions and keeping my relationship with God, just that, mine,

  5. As an LDS adoptive mother I couldn’t agree with you more! Our adoption was private, our child’s mother asked us. Maybe because we never went though an agency who would have prepared us, or maybe because our adoption was a kin adoption I never anticipated the grief I would feel for her. It’s not that during the pregnancy I never felt grief and sadness surrounding the situation, but not at the level I did when I sat alone and stared at my sweet baby. Maybe because I knew what it was like to want a child and have empty arms that to the smallest teeniest tiniest degree I maybe could recognize the grief she felt, she had a child and longed to have him in her arms again to call her own. With being born again there is not that loss that comes with adoption. No matter one’s story surrounding the reasons for placing whether it felt right spiritually or not, there is a loss. The loss of a mother and child relationship, a loss for what could have been. With being born again there is no loss instead there is a gain. In being born again you are blessed with blessings promised if you are and remain faithful. So yes, you are very right in my opinion!

    …and I mean this with the best intentions so please do not take it the wrong way but I am so sorry about your loss. I truly hope you find the peace your soul deserves, and that one day you and your daughter can reunite and start rebuilding your relationship with one another.

    • Dear Purple Polka Dotted Umbrella –

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. I knew it couldn’t be just me who can spot all of the holes in this line of reasoning. Maybe we should all get together and write a letter to Sister Beck and say, What the? Can you help us understand where you are coming from on this one?”

      I am so very grateful you took the time to post and to share your story. I am deeply touched that you would express sorrow of the loss of my precious daughter. Peace will come – it has too because God has promised good to me and peace is a good thing. I just wish it were sooner than later, you know?

      Thanks again for your comments –

      M.

  6. As any good Mormon knows, words spoken by a Relief Society President at an FSA conference and reported in the Church News should not be assumed to be LDS church doctrine. Thank goodness. I adore Sister Beck, but I don’t know how much she knows about adoption personally. I don’t think she is any member of the Adoption Triad. The dogma she promulgated about adoption is questionable, just like a lot of the stuff printed in the Journal of Discourses, from which anti-Mormon authors derive much of their ammunition. My adoptive parents were misled about the adoption/ Abrahamic Covenant thing too.

    • Megan, I simply don’t know what to say to you so I will just “agree with mine adversary” and go along with my day. Just for the record though, I don’t appreciate you equating me to being anti-Mormon. However, you don’t know me and you don’t know my heart so I will give you the benefit of the doubt and try not to take it personally.

    • Wait a minute…you started off your comment with “As any good Mormon knows…” then you finish it off by equating my questions to anti-Mormon authors.

      Wow…once again, I don’t know quite what to say.

      • Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you’re anti-Mormon. I was trying to be on your side. Sorry if it came off wrong.

        Living out here in the bible belt, I’ve been challenged by people that say, “This is your church doctrine…” then they pop some obscure quote by a Pratt. When I explain it’s not doctrine, they argue with me and tell me that I don’t know what my own church teaches. It drives me nuts. Instead, when we encounter statements made outside of conference that contradict scripture, we should say, “This is Mormon dogma, not official doctrine…”. I think that was what your post was about. Adoptive parents and LDSFS might be as guilty as the anti-Mormons if they use non-official statements to set Mormon mores.

      • Thanks for clarifying, Megan. I will frankly admit I tend to be a little gun-shy when it comes to people questioning my testimony of the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, simply because I don’t agree with the dogma. Unfortunately, it happens all. the. time. to women such as myself who are willing to speak out about the pain adoption has caused us. I appreciate your kind words.

        Adoptive parents and LDSFS might be as guilty as the anti-Mormons if they use non-official statements to set Mormon mores.

        Trouble is, this is *exactly* what is done, day in and day out — all in the name of “love” of course.

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