Friday, May 27, 2011

Where are the Mormons?

My strong convictions are biased by my personal experiences, and I admit that.

Seeing others not living up to my particular brand of expectations can sometimes trigger a strong finger-pointing-response in me, and the only means of combating it is to remind myself of whatever easily-judgeable skeletons I have hiding nearest me at the time (or, you know, not so hidden ones. Like my sink of dirty dishes), and that we are all children of the same Heavenly Father. Essentially, I'm careful to remember that we're all just different shades of faulted; none of us better or worse than the next. Each of us is called to different things, and there are many different beautiful ways to do good in the world.

So setting judgment aside, let's talk about orphans. The 150 million orphans, some starving and dying, but all lost and forgotten. The least of these. The children Christ, again and again, commanded us to care for. 150 million. In crowded orphanages, foster homes, and on the streets. Without love, no amount of food and medication can help these children. Man cannot live on bread alone, and neither can his children. They need families, unconditional love, support, education, nurturing, and positive models. These children need mothers.

And I find myself having to ask... Where are the Mormons?

We devoutly preach the teachings of Christ in our churches and homes and, more so than any religion or denomination I've come across, we emphasize the importance of family. From birth, we lovingly teach our children of God's love for us, and how we should strive to mirror Christ's love for us in the way we treat our family. Consider all the Children's Hymns that speak of families. Most notably on my mind lately are the words to "Love is Spoken Here":

"I see my mother kneeling, with our family each day
I hear the words she whispers, as she bows her head to pray
Her plea to the Father quiets all my fears

And I am thankful, love is spoken here"

But what about the millions of precious children every year who are orphaned by death, or abandonment?

Does our Savior not want them to have the same peace and love, and to be free from fear?

For me, prior to becoming a Mormon, adopting was high on my list of dreams. For years prior to marrying, I had little desire to even have biological children.
Then I was married. I had a wonderful life, and was very comfortable and happy. Slowly, my priorities changed and I began looking forward to my little newborn, created and welcomed into the world with love. And so that became our focus.
Adoption, after all, can be so difficult and expensive... and well, we were newlyweds stationed in Germany, and conceiving was natural and far more reasonable than adopting.

Thankfully, God had very different plans for our family, and we had troubles with fertility. I think all children are gifts from God, and would gladly accept a pregnancy right now if that were in his plan for me. I don't feel that He wants us to stop procreating (quite the contrary! :-), but His orphans are also out there. It's easy to see injustice and pain in the world when it's been brought to you, and I look back now and see how easily I could have been swept away by my own comfortable circumstances, never to consider the world's forgotten again, and it frightens me.

I see it everywhere in the LDS church. We're a happy people. We love our families, we thrive on structure and tradition, and gee golly do we love getting our fairy tail endings, lol.

LDS Family Services, for example, offers such a wonderful resource to birth mothers hoping to provide their children with a stable family environment which they couldn't otherwise provide.
Further hoping to simplify the pain of infertility for members of our church, the financial cost of adopting through LDS Family services is subsidized by tithing funds. I love this! Forming families is a high priority to our church! However, when taking a step back, I can't help but wonder why so much effort and money is put into finding children for families instead of families for children. True, there are 150 million orphans, but most come with various imperfections (most notably, not being infants), and that can be a hugely detracting factor for someone in the Mormon culture, so strongly conditioned to want things the way they should be.

Things the way they should be. The only thing more comforting than that idea, is knowing that the lives of my future children will be almost the way they should be once they're adopted. No child deserves to have suffered as an unwanted orphan, and all I can offer them is being an orphan-no-more, and hope for their future in a family where "Love is Spoken".

From a non-denominational, evangelical Christian background, I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when I was 18 years old. I have seen first hand the great and wonderful things that the LDS church does every day, both for its members and non-members alike. Its expansive humanitarian and welfare programs have been a blessing in the lives of millions worldwide.

But a church can't give families to children. Only its members can. We are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We are His hands and His feet, and our Heavenly Father's forgotten are out there waiting for us.

So again I ask,
Where are the Mormons?


  1. Looks like you have had a lot of pain to deal with sweetie. But I dont think its fair to blame a blanket statement of all mormons. I grew up with a family who adopted two kids who they had fostered and both with special needs. So as a whole I think we are doing a great deal. I dont know much about the international adoption but from what I understood most orphanages are controlled by government funding. And with the division of church and state, I am thinking this is one thing that might keep us from intervening and trying to help out a mass amount of orphanages. But missionaries however do build new orphanages and teach at the orphanages in different countries. So I do believe we are doing something. But not all of us have your huge heart. You are such a blessing to these children in need. Most people (mormon or not) do no have your courage or strength. So know that you are loved and looked after by our Heavenly Father. And honestly these children are not forgotten. Not a one. This life is temporary. If they are not cared for here, they will have so much more in the world to come. And your kids will of course have so much here! Keep your chin up. We all fall down and get bruised.

  2. "I can't help but wonder why so much effort and money is put into finding children for families instead of families for children."

    Beautifully said!

    There seems to be a huge push for Christians to open up their hearts to adoption. The church we attended in the Tri-Cities had a guest speaker who quit his job as a successful lawyer because God called him to China to open an orphanage and find homes for the children. He was so inspirational, and has found families for so many children. I didn't believe this before but have since learned how true it is that love is a choice. A decision you make to feel about another person and as Christians we should extend that love to all just as Christ did, especially children.

    You have a heart of gold, Katrina.

  3. Moriah, I probably should have emphasized less on the money side of things, and more the general approach of the LDS church (or lack of). Have we ever heard a call in Relief Society or Conferences to take in the world's orphans? No, but why should there have to be an official call from church leadership in order for Mormons to head the call of Jesus?
    I think that's what upsets me most of all. It definitely wasn't my intent to blame all Mormons, but as LDS culture goes, we're far less "about" the orphan crisis than any other religious group out there. And yes, there are a few VERY rare cases of Mormons who have adopted children internationally or through the Foster Care system, but I've personally only met three. EVER. Three! That's just too rare, and I think it's largely because of what a huge unspoken emphasis is put on normality and perfection in our culture. When people in the Church find out we're adopting these kids, we're overwhelmingly met with questions about why we're not adopting through LDS Services, what our fertility problem is, or what made us "reach this point" (and unfortunately, I've gotten the impression from more than a few people that they believe we're adopting older HIV+ children out of desperation).
    It's no one person's fault, it's just herd mentality (and I was part of it myself). It's just... frustrating to see such a HUGE generally big-hearted demographic (capable of such HUGE things), not seeking out non-newborn adoption more.

    We may be adopting kids with minor medical needs, but there are millions of "healthy" orphans out there too.

    You can throw all the money in the world at feeding and educating orphans, but at the end of the day, it doesn't do a darn thing. People need mothers, not resources.

  4. You know what Katrina? I have been thinking the same thing as I've followed your adoption journey. Looking back, I haven't once heard anything about adoption in the Church. Nor seeking out the orphans, but just the least of these. I think our little LDS subculture holds too true to the belief that there are plenty of spirits still waiting to gain their bodies and come to earth, hence the need for breeding like rabbits (in some cases). I think this means we forget that there are precious spirits that have already come to this earth but weren't as fortunate to be born into loving, supportive homes. I hope this changes because there are plenty of children out there that need strong, loving families.

  5. Sister Jarvis(my mom in law) adopted a 13 year old boy. You should add her to your list of Mormons who've adopted that you know! And my moms best friend Linda adopted too. Did you ever meet PJ? :) Love me some good hearted MoMo's!

    PS I think you're great.

  6. "there are plenty of spirits still waiting to gain their bodies and come to earth". As a Christian, not LDS, is that a Mormon teaching? And, if so, can you direct me to where that is found in the Bible? Very curious. I do NOT like saying this, especially here, because I LOVE what you are doing in adopting these children! (And, I like YOU!)...But, I am uneasy with the Mormon faith. For very personal reasons, but also just an uneasy feeling in my heart. Please, help me here. I want to learn. Hugs ~ Jo

  7. Jo,
    Nice to meet you.
    Yes, it is an LDS-specific teaching. While we do believe in the Bible, we also have other sources of doctrine, both from the Book of Mormon and prophetic teaching through church leadership (much like the Catholic church and their Vatican). There are very distinct differences between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and protestant Christians (which is what started the whole protestant reformation - a rejection of the Catholic church's divine authority), and we don't deny them. So I can understand your uneasiness, because our religions are different.

    However, here are some Bible verses I've found that I personally feel support the belief in pre-existence:

    Genesis 2: 4-5
    "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground."

    Ecclesiastes 12: 7
    "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall RETURN unto God who gave it."

    Jeremiah 1:5
    "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."

    I also realize that there are other Bible verses that seemingly conflict with the teaching, but take it or leave it, it's what Mormons believe.
    I hope I was able to answer your question.


  8. Hi Katrina,

    I've been feeling the same way in regards to wondering if the church can (should?) be doing more about orphans.

    On an individual member level, I think adoption is very much a part of LDS culture. Of the people I know in real life (as opposed to in the blog world), the people that have adopted were all LDS (except for my great grandma who was Lutheran).

    One thing worth noting is that all of the folks I know that have adopted chose infant adoption (with the exception of my parents that adopted a 12-year-old neighborhood boy). As with the general population, there does not seem to be a culture of older child or special needs adoption with church members (at least in my experience).

    What really seems to be missing is a church-wide response to the orphan crisis. When I looked on, the only things referencing adoption focused on domestic infant adoption - the only things I found mentioning orphans were write ups of individual ward service projects. There didn't seem to be an orphan focus coming from church leadership though.

    This is, of course, not to imply that the church isn't doing anything to help. I know that part of the Church Welfare program's focus is to help 'widows and orphans'. Many missionaries in developing nations have more of a 'work mission' than a 'proselyting mission' where they are helping the local communities (including orphans). And, the Perpetual Education fund is in place to help educate people in the very countries where poverty is creating orphans.

    Still, there's something nice about the Catholic and evangelical churches that have "Orphan Sunday" and organize mission trips and have a specific focus on supporting orphans (whether through sponsorship or adoption). In the blog world, I definitely see far more from those two communities than I do from the LDS community. I realize that it's not every Catholic church and every evangelical church that has an orphan focus; however, it seems there are few if any LDS wards with an orphan focus.

  9. Katrina,

    I'm a little late to the game, here, but I just saw this post and it fascinated me. I have had many friends who are LDS members and I personally still find myself uncomfortable with Mormonism.

    I had never thought about the topic of adoption in the LDS community quite this way before and I commend (and thank) you for putting it out there. It needs to be heard! Really this could apply to ANY church that professes to follow Jesus' teaching and does nothing for orphans.

    If you ever want to join our church on a missions trip to an orphanage, consider this a personal invitation :)


  10. Hi! Just found your blog and I'm happy to see there's one more LDS couple adopting kids with SN! Your post was rang true with me because we have five biological kids and can probably have more if we feel it's right. But we chose an international adoption in addition to having kids the usual way. It was really hard for me to follow this prompting that we should do this, not because it didn't feel right, but because it's not a usual thing in our culture. I even met with a member of the Stake Presidency about it and he told me that there is NOTHING in our doctrine that would say it's wrong to adopt a child who needs a family when you can have babies, and that it's totally between you and the Lord. He even told me that our doctrine supports adoption in every way.

    I have to tell you, it's been awesome to hear many, many LDS people tell us how inspiring our journey has been to them. That's the great thing about the internet. It can change mindsets and inspire people to break out of the norm once in a while.

    My sister is in the process of adding a sibling group of FOUR(!!) from Ethiopia to her family of five biological kids. I also know a lot of LDS people who have adopted internationally, from my ward and just friends from my past. Just FYI There's a yahoo group called LDS IntAdopt that is all LDS families who have adopted internationally. There are a lot of families out there! But you're right, it would be so great if caring for the orphans was emphasized more. I think it's because all humanitarian things are umbrellaed under the humanitarian program, so they don't take time to talk about each thing individually. Feel free to drop by our blog any time! We've been home with Anya for 2 months and she's brought so much joy to our lives.


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