Tuesday, June 16, 2009

He Said: Adoption

I first became of LDS Social Services and their work of adoption when I worked for Reed Benson, the son of Erza Taft Benson, back in 1985. He and his wife May were not able to have children and adopted nine children through them. They were able to get brand new babies from unwed LDS mothers right at birth. I was very impressed with the family life that he provided for his children which included FHEs at Utah Jazz games and snazzy family accommodations which included workout rooms. He spent around $5,000 a year on FHE alone. He was a great dad who took care of his kids.

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism says that the priorities of the LDS Social Services are:

1. Placement of children for adoption with couples who meet legal requirements and the Church's personal worthiness standards.

2. Counseling and support for unwed parents, to help them with issues and decisions pertaining to marriage, adoption, and single parenthood.

3. Placement of children in foster homes that will promote healthy individual development and positive family relationships.

4. Therapy and referrals for members having personal or family problems, to allow them to receive help from resources that are respectful of LDS values.

I think it is a wonderful thing that the church does in providing placement of LDS babies by unwed mothers in LDS homes. I know of many LDS couples who for various reasons were not able to have children and were able to adopt through our own agency.

Monte J. Brough of the Seventy back in 1994 explains the Church's position clearly:

The Church has put people and programs in place to help unwed parents repent of their sin and build futures for themselves and their baby.

When a couple conceives a child outside of marriage, the consequence of that sexual relationship affects many people. These consequences can be very difficult and, in many cases, become a lifelong impairment to happiness and freedom.

I shall never forget the experience of sitting at the side of a hospital bed with a young member of my ward. This young unmarried woman had just given birth to a baby boy, and she faced some very difficult questions. As her bishop, I had been asked to visit with the family.

Well-meaning but mostly uninformed friends and family members were showering her with conflicting and confusing advice. They used implications of guilt and responsibility to support unwise and impractical solutions to the young woman’s situation. It seemed that each adviser was able to recall specific examples to support his or her advice. Most, it seemed to me, had motives of their own which were not properly focused on the two most important questions: What was best for the baby, and what was best for the young woman?

The young woman wept as she faced the decisions which she must make, and then, as never before, she wanted the advice and assistance of her bishop. She had no desire to seek her own self-interest as she contemplated the magnitude of her problems. Over the next two days, we talked a great deal about these questions, during which time I provided her with as much information as I could. We both knew that in this case, as with everything else, the best information would come from those we sustain as prophets of the Lord.

On 1 February 1994 the First Presidency wrote a general letter on this very important subject. The letter reads, in part, as follows: “Priesthood and auxiliary leaders are again encouraged to renew their efforts to teach ward and stake members the importance of living chaste and virtuous lives. We note with alarm the continued decline of moral values in society and the resultant number of children being reared by unwed parents. … Every effort should be made in helping those who conceive out of wedlock to establish an eternal family relationship. When the unwed parents are unable or unwilling to marry, they should be encouraged to place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Social Services. … Unwed parents who do not marry should not be counseled to keep the infant as a condition of repentance or out of an obligation to care for one’s own. … When deciding to place the baby for adoption, the best interests of the child should be the paramount consideration.”

I have often thought about what I would do if one of my seven daughters became pregnant out of wedlock. Initially I have thought that I would raise it as my own child but at 54 with high blood pressure and diabetes I wonder how long of the child's life I would be there for. Both my parent died by the time they were 74. My father's father died at 54 and his mother at 66. The question I have is how long will I be around to raise a baby.

I came across an interesting article For What is Best for the Baby in the July 1999 Ensign where one parent faced the same thing and was torn feeling like they should also raise the baby but in the end left it up to their thirteen year old daughter to decide. In the end she choose the parents for her own baby and the family gave the baby up for adoption.

Even though the church supports giving up the baby for adoption I know of a few families that raised the baby as one of their own children. In one case that my daughter is familiar with and told me privately the boy didn't know that he was adopted until high school when he became suspicious that the gap between him and another sibling was very close.

I think if a parent is going to raise their child's baby they should be upfront and honest with the child. It is difficult enough to find out about it but it causes a great deal of psychological baggage when in a culture where you have to say you are honest in your dealings with your fellow man that you are lying to a child that you are raising up to follow similar standards.

In my own family even though we were Catholics my sister was married at fifteen to a seventeen year old boy after she became pregnant. My father tried to force her to have an abortion. Instead she ran off with the boy and today she is still married to him thirty-six years later. I never thought she would stay married all these years but she did. In the case where marriage is a possibility I am in favor of marriage. But when a boy won't take responsibility I feel that adoption is the best option.


  1. Dr. B., I think the Monte Brough example and the Ensign article you cited are both cases in point of the extreme pressure which is brought to bear by the Church to follow their current policy guidelines. Indeed, Bishops are instructed to counsel young women in this manner. In the article, the daughter is encouraged to "make her own choice," but what if she had decided to keep her baby? Why are there no examples in the article of someone who made a different choice, and it turned out just as well?

  2. Oh, and another thing: how does one decide what "the best interests of the child" are? Does this include having expensive FHEs or a home in suburbia? Do biological ties make a difference? Or that the mother is the vessel through whom HF sent the child to earth? How exactly can we make these determinations?

  3. "in the end left it up to their thirteen year old daughter to decide" - a 13 year old is capable of making that decision??

  4. I have a sixteen year old neice that is dealing with this issue right now. The problem is that her mother was also pregnant at this age. I believe that she should place the child up for adoption so that she can break this cycle and also so she can attend the rest of high school and maybe go away to college. Give the girl a chance to be young and not have those adult responsiblities now. She is not ready. I am afraid that she will view this from her mothers perspective and see her older brother. Hard to imagine not wanting the baby when you can look at your own sibling and try to imagine them not being there.
    This is absolutly one of those topics that has no easy answer. I believe that for the girls sake and the babies, she should put it up for adoption.