Dear Ms. Feverfew –
In an effort to make sure that I was recalling the events surrounding your relinquishment correctly, I searched out the actual policy regarding the LDS church’s stance on unwed parents. And here it is, in all it’s glory. (Sidenote: I guess I am a bad Mormon. I googled this and found it in it’s entirety on the internet in PDF format. This particular document is supposed to be read only by the priesthood leadership in the LDS church, not the lay members such as myself. Bad, bad, bad Mormon, but a curious one too.)
Here is the LDS church’s adoption policy for unwed mothers from the Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1 Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics 2006.
Unwed Parents (p. 188-89)
The First Presidency has stated:
“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by parents who provide love, support, and all the blessings of the gospel” (First Presidency letter, June 15, 1998).
“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 blessing 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 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. 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 an infant who is sealed to a mother and father” (First Presidency letter, June 26, 2002; see also “Adoption and Foster Care” on page 173).
(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.)
Is it any wonder that with this kind of policy that I felt as if I had no other option than to relinquish you? My Bishop and the cultural rhetoric told me that relinquishing you for adoption was the single best way to “repent” of my sins and to qualify for the healing power of the Atonement in my life. By relinquishing you, I was showing that I was repentant and willing to accept God’s will in my life. Adoption was portrayed as the portal to redemption (spiritually, financially, socially, and physically) for someone as “fallen and lost” as I was.
And I bought into it lock, stock and barrel. I wanted so desperately to qualify for God’s love in my life, to be approved of by my mother, and to please my priesthood leaders. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but in my set of circumstances, they were both toxic and tragic.
Four years later, I found myself an “unwed” (newly divorced) mother yet again. This time though, I had a self-righteous ex-husband pressuring me to relinquish my parental rights to Captain Knuckle. After all, I had done “it” before he argued and more importantly, he was remarried and he could provide Captain Knuckle with both a mother and father who were married. He quoted to me from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to emphasize his point of children being entitled to a mother and father who were married. He told me I was being selfish – abusive – and that I really didn’t care for the best interests of Captain Knuckle because I was “forcing” him to be raised by a single mother.
It was during this time that the absurdity of his comments really hit home. I don’t know why I couldn’t see as clearly four years before, but this time around, it was as plain as the nose on my face. And then the irony of the moment began to sink in. I knew that my priesthood leaders would have never counseled me to relinquish my parental rights simply based on the fact that I was now “unwed” and my ex remarried (not that I bothered asking this time around…) I also knew that the Handbook of Instructions didn’t contain any direction on this matter either.
So…I began to ask questions. Questions like, why is it now OK for me to parent this child as a single mother when four years ago it was looked at as being wrong? Aren’t I just as single now as I was then? And what about my friend whose husband had passed away just after finding out they were expecting but before they had been sealed in the temple? Why was it somehow noble for her to parent her new baby instead of relinquishing him for adoption so he could be raised by a mother and a father who had been married in the temple? Wasn’t she just as single and her child just as un-sealed to his parents as in our situation? And if children really are “entitled” to be raised by parents who honor their marital covenants, then why doesn’t the LDS church recommend adoption for all children from marriages where there has been infidelity and try to find them homes where the parents do honor their marital vows? Or what about children in part-member families? They aren’t sealed to their parents – why doesn’t the LDS church put pressure on those parents to relinquish those children to more “qualified families” (read: one man, one woman sealed together in the temple who pay their tithing, hold a current temple recommend, and as a general rule have a higher socio-economic status than the relinquishing parent)?
Something just doesn’t make sense…if parenting is a viable option for people in those circumstances, then why wasn’t it for me and you?
I still haven’t sorted out the answers to all of that yet. I don’t know that I ever will be able to. It wasn’t as if four years later I was magically a fundamentally different person with a new set of skills and a new support system. I still had the same flaws, the same weaknesses, the same proclivities as before. I still loved God and I was still a damn good mother. Why it was culturally acceptable for me to be a single mother to Captain Knuckle and not to you, I will never know.
Real life is calling and I must go. I am sure you will hear more on this subject later.
Much love and belief in the amazing creation you are –