Why Haven’t You Adopted an Orphan Child?

For years I’ve been torn by the knowledge that there are thousands of orphaned or abandoned children desperate to be welcomed into a family like mine and our reasons for “passing by on the other side” when we see the “least of these.”
Kids waiting to be adopted right now.




The least of these have names. The nine of them pictured above are Amzi, Aniki, Ashley, Cassandra, Demarcus, Heaven, Montrell & Donnell, and Norman. Aniki and Heaven are siblings. All of them have been orphaned or abandoned and are waiting for permanent families. Given the extent of their needs, what are the morally acceptable reasons for our passing these kids by as we can go about our normal routine?

I’m interested in what we, Mormons and aspiring Christians, think we would say to Christ should he ask why we didn’t meet these kids’ needs. How much should they suffer, how long should they wait, before we would act? How much time and energy can we spend on mundane pursuits and still claim we don’t act because of a need for “balance” or because we coudn’t run faster than we had strength? Which of our pursuits can morally withstand the gravitational pull of children in need of family?

126 comments for “Why Haven’t You Adopted an Orphan Child?

  1. My wife’s sanity – her psychological and emotional well-being?

    I don’t mean that to be harsh at all. We have housed a large number of our children’s friends for indeterminate lengths of time over the years. Any number of them drop by at all hours just to talk or get away from the turmoil of their home lives. We are known as Mama and Papa in the teenage community in our town. We housed an indigent family until they got back on their feet financially.

    I am deeply sympathetic to the needs of unadopted children, but my wife and I have considered carefully and prayerfully and at length what we can give to children other than our own biological ones. What we have concluded is that we can’t adopt children, but we can look actively for opportunities to love and serve those who are not loved and served in the homes of their biological parent(s). We are doing what we can to help the children in this world who need us, but we can’t adopt. We just can’t.

    Having said that, I think this post is an important one that every member of the Church should consider. Sharing the Gospel can be accomplished in many ways, and, IMHO, there is no more noble way to do so than trying to save the physical and emotional and psychological lives of children.

  2. I appreciate the chance to give some serious thought to this question, Matt E. The gospel’s hard, no doubt about it, especially for a natural man like me.

  3. It’s not always as easy as it looks to adopt internationally. Having your heart in the right place is nowhere near enough. It usually costs tens of thousands of dollars and often requires that you leave the children you already have behind for weeks while you travel to pick up your new child. These children are by definition special needs which can place a tremendous burden on a family (especially if the adoptive family thinks they are doing something noble). Add in the intense corruption in many areas of international adoption, and you can scare just about any potential parent. Of course, not all orphans live in other countries. But the vast majority do.

    These aren’t necessarily good excuses in every case. But my reasons for not adopting aren’t mundane. They are real and legitimate. And there are things I can do and have done to help meet orphaned children’s needs even though right now we can’t adopt one.

  4. Sometimes I wonder if it is moral to go through extravagant fertility procedures to have children when there are kids like these who need families; then I remind myself that just because I can get pregnant for free, doesn’t mean I don’t have the same responsibilities towards these kids.

    I suspect that I and others should think more seriously of fostering and adopting. I suspect those that do are superior kinds of people.

  5. From a purely adacemic point of view you have an excellent point. If every family who has children adopted just one child, it would increase the internal growth of the church by over 25%. (An aside question, the money that the government might pay you to adopt children is not nearly enough to cover the expenses of the additional child, so is it money that needs to be tithed?)

    I think it would be a disaster if church leaders or anyone else tried to guilt members into adopting children. To the extent this website is viewed as even slightly credible, it is similar thing. Adoption is something that God has to call you to directly. It is not an assignment that you can be required to do like home teaching and such.You have to consider whether you are suited to be an adopting parent. Many of the children are more difficult than the ones in typical families, which ideally should not be an excuse. You have to consider a hundred other important questions.

    I would recommend looking at some adoption websites first. Just search “adoption” and you will find them. Another consideration is to become foster parents. It is not a permanent arrangement and you can find out from experience whether this is for you or not. Many foster parents adopt their foster children.

    I have felt the pull to adopt additional children but my wife has not when I have discussed it with her. Since she is a stay-at-home mom and I have a demanding job, she gets the final say. So my personal answer is that I do not feel that God has called my wife to do it.

  6. Not superior. In our case, we hadn’t considered it until a friend of ours had a grandson who desperately needed a stable family environment – and a chance to see that not all adult men are abusive and/or neglectful. It was one of the hardest and most painful things we have done, but it also set the stage for everything we have done since. Once you begin to understand what it means to the kids you serve, it’s hard to stop. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it as I type.

  7. especially if the adoptive family thinks they are doing something noble



    I know two great couples who have done fostering and adoption instead of fertility work, Spectator. But I’m not going to say that having one’s own children is generally a morally inferior choice. Having kids is just not a selfish act in Mormonism.

  8. I\’ve often thought about this, and have even looked in to adopting. But the problem for me is that I\’m single. (Well, it\’s not a problem in MY view, but for others.)

    I even met with my bishop about this at one point. And, of course, he brought up the fact that the child wouldn\’t be sealed to anyone, and that he/she would have to go to daycare, and that I would bare the financial and emotional burden alone.

    My response was that the child already isn\’t sealed to anyone, lots of children go to daycare, and many women are single mothers. But at least the child would have something to eat, a safe place to sleep, and a mother who loved him/her.

    He then suggested that I should sign up to \”adopt\” a child at a charity for a nominal fee.

    Needless to say, I didn\’t bring it up again.

    When I think of all the single, financially stable women in the church who could help save a child, it really makes me frustrated that because it isn\’t conventional, it isn\’t done.

    I\’m still thinking about it, though.

  9. If you think it would be pleasing to God to adopt as a single parent and you are doing it, not for your own selfish reasons, but out of complete love for the child, then I say to Liz W. to start looking into it.

    I know of a couple who are inter-racial lesbian and they have adopted two children. They had to go to another state to do it. (I think it is illegal in this state, not sure.) I think the children are better off in that home than nothing. They are loved and cared for.

  10. Personally, We know people who have adopted children and it has, in 50% of those cases, been really bad for the parents and the kids. In Fostering, the number I personally know where it has been bad jumps up much higher, to something like 80%, if I were to guess. I don’t know any kids who’ve been left in orphanages, but I’d imagine it’s even worse, and of course, leaving the kids to die in the streets is also worse. So I don’t know of a better alternative for these kids.

    On my end it boils down to my not believing I am good enough or strong enough or loving enough to make it work. For now I will pray for the children and keep hoping that my tithes and offerings will find the mouths and hands of those in need.

  11. How do we do it? Can we afford it?

    My wife and I would really like to adopt a child like the ones you describe here. It really does break our heart, and we have heart room and house room. For us, the big obstacle is ignorance—we just don’t know how to do it. And the second, related, obstacle is the cost—everything we’ve heard says it’s not something we could really afford right now. Those kids just want a family, and we would love to take one of them in. How do we do it without spending all our savings (or more)?

  12. Personally, We know people who have adopted children and it has, in 50% of those cases, been really bad for the parents and the kids.

    in what ways? this is something that I am considering in a few years.

  13. This same thought has crossed my mind. I have talked to my wife about it. I think we have agreed on a set of rules and conditions for when we will begin adopting children. Some factors we consider include (1) the psychological impact that a newly adopted child can have on our existing children, (2) the degree to which we can provide for the emotional and spiritual needs of all our children, natural plus adopted, (3) how many natural children we intend to have before beginning to adopt, and (4) the “special” needs of the adopted child, which might include extra attention, affection, health care, etc.

    The “special” needs are what might be the most difficult of the adoption considerations for me and my wife. I noted that Matt showed us a group of fairly attractive children that are smiling, happy, seemingly well adjusted, and seemingly without health problems. The assimilation of an adoptee, I’ve been told, can be a very difficult process because you may not necessarily know what kind of history the child has previously had, what kind of truly “special” needs are necessary for raising that child. That is why most people who adopt want a healthy baby, because they can raise the child without the fear of what previous health history, neglect or abuse might have done to “damage” the child. So, I think there needs to be an excess buffer of all the factors I listed above if adopting a child that isn’t healthy or isn’t a baby.

  14. (6) “I think it would be a disaster if church leaders or anyone else tried to guilt members into adopting children. To the extent this website is viewed as even slightly credible, it is similar thing.”

    It was daring to say so, Mike. But honesty obliges me to say I agree. Which does not mean we do not have an immense appreciation for the many courageous, loving, responsible families who adopt. But adopting is not for all.

  15. Having recently returned from a three week trip to Zambia, I was intrigued to see how difficult the local government makes it to adopt a child. Specifically, under the (outdated) current law, you must live there for somewhere around three months (supposedly to experience the culture and understand your child’s background better) before you are able to take it home.

    There are millions of childrens in Sub-saharan Africa that are being orphaned from AIDS and other crises. Every 14 seconds, a new child in Africa is orphaned from AIDS. 14 seconds. There’s so much to be done. I just wish that the various governments made it easier for those who wish to adopt a child and begin the healing process.

  16. mfranti-
    Here are a couple sample cases of what can go wrong.

    Sample 1: We have a caucasian friend who adopted two African American girls and put her in Catholic School (Our friend is a devout Catholic, so nothing unusual there.) The girl has now decided that her real parents were bad because they were black. So we have a young afircan american who thinks african americans are bad. This was bad for her. As for her mother, it has been bad for her because she is perpetually trying to provide her child the life she could not otherwise have, and has ended up with a spoiled child who takes her money and racked up a $5000 phone bill last february.

    Sample 2: I have a friend who was adopted and never could get past that perception that being adopted meant he was “bad” as a kid. He ended up in and out of juvy all through middle school and high school, and now is divorced.

    Sample 3: I had a friend in Indiana who’s parents were foster parents, but eventually were overwhelmed by the financial impact it had on them and now live on welfare, their son, who they didn’t want to give “special treatment” to, hung out with kids who were psychologically scarred by abusive parents (hence they were put in foster homes) and all this was a pretty bad influence on him.

    On the otherhand:

    Sample 1: My Wife’s Uncle is adopted. He is a Lawyer now, and is a good man.

    Sample 2: I Home Teach a fella who was adopted and who is now one of the most faithful saints I’ve ever met, if a little obsessed with 80s music.

    Sample 3: I know some people who adopted 9 kids, and while I will say they aren’t done yet, I can say they have really blessed those kids lives so far.

    I know a bunch more examples, but I wanted to stay simple.

  17. 13 — Andy. If you want to learn about this, look for foster care licensing agencies in your area. These are private agencies that license foster homes and provide support for them — usually this is therapeutic foster care, for tougher kids with higher levels of needs. Talk to them about what you want to do, and they can direct you to fostering opportunities that will fit your readiness level. There is quite a process involved in getting a license, including a fair chunk of training, but it will give you a start on what you’ve said you want to know. I would suggest, once you get your license, that you start by doing respite care, so you can get to meet a number of kids, so you can get an idea of what you do and don’t like. It’s like dating, before you get to something more intensive and long term.

    After you’ve done this for a while, I’d take some short-term placements before you start looking for adoptive placements, for the same reason — to make sure you know what you’re getting into.

    15 — You’re asking the right questions. I usually recommend people with bio-kids get them raised before they turn to foster care and adoption for tougher kids, because you need both the skills and perspectives you get from that experience. Then we can build on those skills to show you how to deal with higher-need situations.

    Everybody — The amount of need we have for parents for these kids exceeds the amount of parents we have which would be appropriate for them. You don’t have to be a perfect fit to be a better option than what’s available to them right now. At the same time, however, your primary responsibility is to your own children if you have them, and you should not put them at risk to try to clean up the mess made by someone else. If you’ve raised your family and your nest feels a little empty, and if you’re emotionally stable, then you might be a great candidate for these kids. If you’ve got strong parenting instincts but fertility isn’t your friend, this might be a good option as well.

    FWIW, I work for a foster care licensing agency doing therapeutic foster. I would welcome more Mormon foster parents that aren’t crazy to the field.

  18. I guess it’s because I am a selfish, arrogant jerk who does not care about the plight of the world’s children. Is that what you are getting at, Matt?

  19. “I appreciate the chance to give some serious thought to this question, Matt E. The gospel’s hard, no doubt about it, especially for a natural man like me.”

    That’s really disappointing and just not good enough, especially if you are going to carp on and on over the moral ins and outs of abortion. It’s immoral to have an abortion? So then is it moral to cop out with some lame “natural man” refrain when it comes to caring for actual living children? I would have much more respect for the anti-abortion bleating if it was accompanied by real concern, real action on the front end (reducing unwanted pregnancy) and on the back end, widespread encouragement of adoption and real efforts to deal with wards of the state (both of which, as a society we handle terribly).

    And get this, some of your “excuses” for not adopting these kids, goodness–are those some of the same reasons some people opt for abortion? When the ball is in your park, suddenly you are much more understanding and sympathetic. Oh ye hypocrites.

  20. We have some of the same concerns Dan S. has. Since there are more than enough infertile couples to take care of all the healthy babies, adoption only makes sense for us if we’re adopting a baby with bad health problems or a kid who presumably would also have bad health or psychological problems. And we worry that a kid like that would severely limit what we do for our own existing and future children. We’ve also heard lots of horror stories about foster kids and worry about what they would do to our young children too.

    What we need is more information. Are we correct that if you’re adopting kids, not babies, the kids usually have bad physical or mental health problems? Are we correct that adopting such a kid would put a lot of strain on our other children? Are there any good resources out there to read about the experiences of foster parents or parents who adopt kids? I’m mainly concerned with American kids in the above questions, if anyone has answers.

    I don’t know why this is a problem, but one of my hangups also is adopting a kid whose older than our own kids. Am I daft or is there something to it? Its almost like being one of the older kids in a large family is a secondary parent role and you want a kid that you’ve raised from babyhood to be in it.

    Something else that has always been a hangup for me but I’ve been too embarassed to track down is whether you can establish an IQ range for kids before you adopt them. I’ve got this idea that it would be hard on a kid who was fairly normal to be raised in a family where they significantly deviated from the IQ range of the other children, and it seems like the parents would have to adjust their parenting style significantly too. Am I daft?

    Of course our main reason is that we plan on adopting during the Millennium. (Grin).

  21. In all seriousness, we have our hands completely full with our own large and ever-growing family. But perhaps the pursuit of raising them in the gospel and being there for them in every way possible cannot “morally withstand the gravitational pull of children in need.” Perhaps it’s a selfish need for “balance” to make sure I am filling my heavenly charge to lead my own children to the Celestial Kingdom. (Note- if I wanted balance, I would not have had more children by the time I finished school than most people nowadays even have ever. I guess my desire to sire my own offspring instead of raising others is really selfishly motivated).

  22. Adam, the answer is simple. Your concern for your own children is naturally selfish. Christ expects more of us, per Matt.

  23. Blain,

    why is it that you usually recommend couples wait until they’ve mostly raised their own children? I would like to think that because it means we can put off worrying about this for a while and tend to the one-hundred other ways we need to be about our Father’s business, but does it actually usually work out better that way? I’ve got this idea that children are often easier to raise en masse and that parents lose energy as they get older.

  24. Jordan F.,

    I don’t think my concern for my own children is selfish, I don’t think that Matt E. thinks that, and I don’t think the gospel supports that kind of thinking. But I do think that the tendency of the natural man is to get comfortable and ignore needs that aren’t right in front of our face so I appreciate Matt E. giving us a chance to do a little reflection on whether its our own families and obligations or just our pursuits that keep us from helping ‘the least of these our brethren.’ I think there’s a sense in which being a Latter-day Saint should really mean something like being saintly; I need to be reminded of that if I’m ever to move beyond my natural level.

    P.S. No one has attacked you. Stop acting like someone has. If the idea that you haven’t looked into adoption because of less than pure motives seems outrageous to you, than it probably is, and no one is suggesting otherwise.

  25. I know international adoptions can be a huge sink of money and time. Does anyone have a feel for the costs of adopting an American kid? I guess I naively assumed the adoption process itself would be more or less free, since its so obviously a public service.

  26. Just to weigh in as an adoptive parent of a “mixed” family (3 birth children, 1 adoptee — note that the term “natural child” can be offensive).

    As the church has done a much better job of emphasizing lately, family size and timing are matters left between a couple and the Lord. All sorts of variables enter into that conversation but guilt should not be one of them. I applaud efforts to encourage couples to consider adoption for whatever reason, particularly in the case of special needs kids and foster care. I wish more people considered it as an option and at least brought the matter to the Lord rather than dismissing it out of hand. That being said, a family might decide that adoption might not be the right thing or it might not be the right time. I respect that decision.

    I have nothing but wonderful things to say about how much adoption has blessed our family. We may adopt or foster more kids down the road but feel from our consultations that four is all we can handle at this point!

  27. “Why Haven’t You Adopted an Orphan Child?”

    I’m waiting for the teen to grow up and out. geez, I won’t even be 37 by the time I have an empty nest (getting scared just thinking about it)

    I think waiting until my child is gone makes a ton of sense. I will have experience, more patience, room in the house and money.

    I wouldn’t want the foster/adopted child to feel like he’s competing with my bio kid for attention. I am not suggesting that it happens that ways in other homes, I just know me. I am tapped with a perfectly mannered 13 y/o girl and a yellow dog. I couldn’t imagine throwing in a high needs 6 y/o to the mix

    oh yeah, and I haven’t told my husband yet ;)

  28. oh,

    mattE, not fair showing pictures of really cute kids. I already foster doggies because I cant stand the thought of them hanging out in limbo until someone wants to keep them for good.

    i see those beautiful faces and want to give them the same quasi-wonderful life my belle has.

    listen to me…i’m a sucker for a cute face

  29. Liz W.,

    While I think it would be better for a child to have a two parent, SAHM family than a single mom, I also think it would be better for a child to have a single mom than to be bounced around foster care and group homes. I would hope that if you feel drawn in that direction, you would continue to consider it.

  30. Most of those I know who have adopted young children or adolescents (not babies) did so through the foster care system. This next comment might be a bit offensive to those whose biological children have mental and/or physical disabilities, but my experience with those who have been in and out of our house is that mental and physical disabilities are substantially less destructive on the overall family (marriage and biological children) than severe emotional issues caused by abuse. There is a volatility in many cases of emotional disability that makes many of these situations completely unpredictable and, in too many cases, actually dangerous.

    I echo those who have said that anyone considering adoption, especially of those who are not babies, need to do so with eyes wide open. I cringe a tiny bit at the idea of rejecting a child who has been born for reasons that would not be used for an unborn child, but I flat out refuse to criticize someone for carefully and prayerfully putting parameters on what they can and cannot do – when they are doing something that too many refuse even to consider.

    ac, linking abortion and adoption in the way you did, and brushing condemnation as hypocrites with such a broad, judgmental brush, is disgusting – plain and simple. Everyone who has read what I have wrote since I started blogging will understand how rarely I say something like that. I have disagreed quite openly on more than one occasion, but I’m fairly certain I’ve never criticized anyone’s comment in that way. I do not do so in haste or thoughtlessly. I do so carefully and intentionally. Your comment was disgusting.

  31. “Have wrote”? Yikes! I really did attend school at one point in my life. It’s pretty bad when you are going slowly and editing – and miss something like that!

  32. Ray,
    your abuse of the past participle is disgusting–plain and simple. (Grin).

  33. Matt, I appreciate the sentiment behind this post, but here’s what five minutes of digging found about the first four kids on your list:

    Amzi is in special ed, has behavior problems, and needs to be adopted along with a sister who requires counseling.

    Aniki has two siblings who need to be adopted with him and they prefer parents with specialized training in child development.

    Ashley should be adopted along with two siblings (who are 11 and 12).

    Demarcus is hyperactive and should stay in Louisiana.

    I doubt the situation is much different for the rest.

    My point here is that the level of guilt in your post is appropriate for people who say they are “too busy” to spend ten minutes per day reading their scriptures. It is not appropriate for people who say they are “too busy” to take on one of these children, which will put a level of strain on many families that may be unwise. Yes, it would be good from time to time for all of us to consider if something like this is possible, but I’m betting for virtually all families with small children, the answer will be no (or: not now).

  34. Julie S.,

    If people are appropriately ‘too busy’ doing things that are important, than I don’t see that Matt E.’s post should inspire guilt or is otherwise objectionable. I appreciate the extra information you found out and am inclined to believe that you are probably right about families with small children.

  35. Re: personal revelation. Given the centrality and frequency of the commandments to serve others (“done it unto the least of these,” “Good Samaritan,” “pure religion,” “Golden Rule,” “only in the service of your God,” etc.) to what degree can we “pass by on the other side,” as the priest did the man fallen among thieves, unless God specifically prompts us to help? How many scriptures to relieve the suffering of children would we need before we’d conclude that we should act unless we’re specifically told not to? If we see an elderly woman slip and fall on the ice, for example, I don’t believe anyone would suggest we should first pray to see if God wants us to help.

    Many of the comments seem to suggest that God wants us to lead lives similar to those we lead now — blogging, watching TV, taking kids to piano lessons and soccer practice, going on vacations, browsing at the mall, catching dinner and a movie on the weekend — and that he doesn’t expect our service to severely inhibit the modern American lifestyle or the ways we raise children (swimming lessons and museum visits important, feeding and bathing new handicapped brother not too important). I think its wrong to assume that because it is not requisite to we run faster than we have strength, it’s okay to walk.

    Re: Guilt. I don’t understand the concern about guilt. Though it took a couple thousand years before someone said that Christianity comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable, the principle was there from the start. Christ’s teaching that in failing to help the least of our brethren we actually fail to help him is tough medicine, and appears intended to make us feel guilty. He wants us to project His face onto every face, including the kids pictured above. I see that as the psychological and moral equivalent of projecting the faces of my dear children onto those faces. (Christ commands us to love him more than anyone else; the closest I can get to that love is the love I have for my family. I try to imagine failing to relieve Christ’s suffering as failing to relieve my child’s.) Because all of us do less for others than the gospel requires, I think we should feel guilty knowing we fail to feed Christ’s sheep despite our claim (and his commandment) to love Him.

    I should point out that I have not adopted a child and don’t live the “radical” life I think the gospel calls us to.

  36. Matt, I don’t disagree with almost anything you just wrote, and I have stated already that I believe this issue of helping others (and especially orphaned children) is something all of us should consider carefully and prayerfully, but I don’t agree that “all of us do less for others than the gospel requires.” The Gospel requires we do all we can. Period. Perhaps none of us measure up to an objective, per capita income / time requirement that insists we take no thought for the temporal care of our families, but that’s not what is required of us.

    I for one am satisfied that my wife and I are doing all that we can to help others, including children who need our care. We are claiming to feed His sheep – and we are doing it to the best of our ability. Blanket statements of judgment aren’t productive in a forum like this, because they indict those who are not worthy of indictment. I really do appreciate you addressing this correct principle, but I would prefer you teach it and let us govern ourselves.

  37. And yet somehow we’re supposed to do all of this without any grudge.

    I hate religion.

  38. My wife and I adopted two children as babies. Close friends of our adopted two children as a 3 and 5-year old. Our lives have been greatly blessed by our sons. Our friends’ lives are a daily nightmare. Their children came from an abusive environment and have fetal alcohol syndrome and a number of other problems. The boy is in a group home and the girl was just found after having run away. Again. For about the 7th time. Our friends are great people who love these children, but apparently God wants to test them.

    God bless those who adopt children, as opposed to babies (though I certainly wish God’s blessing upon all who adopt, it’s just that the non-baby adoptions appear more risky to me)

  39. When my wife nearly died giving birth to our 3rd child four years ago, I realized that our family was probably not going to look like I had imagined. After recovery, my wife and I discussed the possibility of adoption down the road rather than risking more labor and delivery. Now as my four year old looks less and less like a baby everyday, the tug of children gets stronger and stronger, and the fear and pain of that night fades, putting another baby in the oven feels like an option. But at the same time, not. We definitely feel constrained from having more kids.

    Adoption/fostering is still on the table for us, and I would love to bring a boy into our home, but I will not risk my 3 young girls to the unknown effects of mistreatment likely found in a ward of the state. My girls will need to be significantly older than any child we bring into our home.

  40. Julie, I don’t know that the complicating circumstances relieve us morally. We’re not commanded to be in the service of our fellow men unless they have big needs, or to visit the imprisoned if it’s convenient for us to stop on the way back from the mall. I don’t think, in other words, that the priest who passed by on the other side is morally relieved if he knew the man had lots of problems.

    I see the gospel as requiring radical change. I believe most of us have far more sympathy for, and share much more in common with, the young rich man than we dare admit.

  41. Matt

    I’m with Ray on this one. It is true that there are billions of ways that we need to improve, and that we should have those things which we need to improve to be constantly in front of our eyes. It is not true, however, that everybody should/need to adopt a child. Considering I am single, working full time, and still going to college (also full time), it would be disastrous for me to adopt. It would be even worse for the child in question.

    That being said, I appreciate this post. It makes me think of ways that I can better help other people. It makes me think of ways to lengthen my stride, even if it isn’t adoption.

  42. Jack,

    Is “religion” what is really imposing upon that feeling upon you? I doubt it. For example, if religion didn’t exist, but your Mother told you “Jack, you should do good without holding a grudge”, would you say “I hate my mother”? I think you are reacting to your distaste for the principle, and not the person or institution that said it. True principles exist whether you hate them or not.

  43. Ray, I believe the gospel standard is so high that no one can meet it. It’s a major victory if someone loves their spouse as themself. No one loves all of their neighbors as they love themselves.

    Jacob, I haven’t meant to suggest that everyone has to adopt a child. I’m most interested in the reasons we give for why we don’t do more. I think most of them are pretty hollow (including my own). Adoption is just a proxy for other charitable acts. Take visiting the imprisoned, for example. I don’t know how we could respond to Christ’s “Ye did it not unto Me” when we know he knows how much time we spent watching football, eating out, etc.

  44. Matt, if you can clear your own high-bar, then more honor and glory to you. I am struggling as is and am reluctant to tip the balance to a point that the whole family endeavor is lost. The problem is that your argument could be used for any topic — genealogy, missionary work, world poverty. We all don’t do enough in all of these areas. Especially the women of the church. They are not pretty enough, not thin enough, not righteous enough, not resourceful enough … oh, wait, isn’t there an article in the Ensign this month decrying this logic?

    Adopting a child in an effort to relieve the pain and suffering of all children is a bandage on a gaping wound. I’d rather have people out converting hearts and minds to the gospel plan than cleaning up horrendous problems left behind by evil people. At least that effort, though equally unlikely to yield drastic change, goes to the root and not the leaf of the problem.

    Scarcity of resources and time is nothing new. You may find one devotion of resources more appropriate than another, but that does not make you right. Service is not prescribed in exact form to be acceptable to God. Indeed, even the Lord prioritizes his sheep, the whole purpose of his existence.

  45. Cyril, I don’t come close to clearing the bar. (And I’m not arguing that it’s MY bar.)

    Missionary work is a good example for the thread’s meta-theme about falling short. If we think people will suffer with the damned souls of hell unless they repent and accept Christ, how much time should we allow away from spreading the good news so we can watch TV? The only way out of the missionary conundrum is to argue either (1) that the unrepentant won’t suffer much, (2) that we don’t care that they’ll suffer, or (3) that our effort can’t make any difference.

  46. Should I take my flat-screen back then? I must say, though, that if only Ammon or Job will be saved, then count me and everyone else (mostly) on this board and in the pews at church out.

  47. “Should I take my flat-screen back then?”

    Unfortunately for us, my opinion doesn’t matter. I’m not the one who commanded you to love him with all your heart, might, mind and soul, or who said that if you don’t visit the imprisoned you don’t visit Him.

  48. Matt, Please pardon this slightly roundabout way to answer your last comment, as well as its length, but when I discuss “the Gospel” I always go back to my parsing tendency. The “gospel” is the “good news”. It is NOT the “beat one over the head like a hellfire and damnation preacher” news. (There are those who need that type of preaching, and I have delivered that type of sermon at least once, but it is not best for everyone.) It is the “Exercise faith; Repent continually; Be baptized; Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost; repeat ad infinitum as you endure to the end; praise HF and Jesus that you will be redeemed despite your inability to live to a standard of perfection that otherwise would damn all to an everlasting separation from God” news. It is the “Do all you can do, and I will make up the difference” news.

    In saying this, I am not in the mercy-glorying, cop-out-claiming, all-is-well-in-Zion camp. I just choose to focus on the fact that I can muddle my way through life doing the best I know how to do, struggling to change my imperfect sinning self, without overwhelming guilt and shame – because someone bought me and paid for me and is willing to take me home.

    He adopted me, in a very real and powerful sense; when I covenanted to take His name upon me, I essentially promised to become Christ to those around me; I have a responsibility, therefore, to adopt as many others as I can in a very real and powerful sense; but I do NOT have an inherent responsibility to adopt them into the bounds of my actual, biological family. If I can, I should; if I can’t, I am not required to do so. (and let me repeat, this is coming from someone who basically has done so)

    I know you just said that adoption itself is not the sole point you are stressing, but what I just said applies, IMO, to anything else we could be discussing. We need to do everything we can in all ways we can, but we also are told that “to everything there is a time and a season.” It does no good – no good whatsoever – to tell people who truly are striving to do everything they can in all ways that they can that their efforts aren’t enough – that they need to do even more.

    Jacob felt the need to rip into the men of his time for the way they treated the women, but he also apologized to those who had to listen to him do so when it did not apply to everyone in attendance. I am NOT requesting an apology; I don’t think that is necessary AT ALL. I only use that example to illustrate that there are those of us who really don’t need to be told that we are slackers who aren’t doing enough in this particular area – that there really are those who are doing every bit as much as we can in this particular area, and that the number of us might surprise you if you could see our actual efforts in this regard.

  49. God doesn’t like flatscreens, He’s got something way cooler – a Urim and Thummim!

  50. I don’t really have a flat screen, in full disclosure. But boy I would love one, probably more than an orphan.

    Maybe it is just me, but the tone of the original post reminds me of my baptist friends who claim with absolute certainty that they know who will and who will not be saved. I just happen to think that is a matter uniquely invested in the Lord. As Jesus said to the early apostles when they wrang their hands at the notion that heaven is a place for a very, very few, with God all things are possible, even the salvation of a non-adopting, non-proselytizing, non-inmate visiting soul like me.

  51. Matt E.,

    Thanks for the thought-provoking question. I have four daughters of my own and have honestly never even thought of adopting. Not sure why. Maybe I figured if I wanted another child we would just conceive one. Or maybe I assumed that all the orphans are already being adopted by people who cannot have biological children of their own. But the idea of adopting is intruguing me now. Seeing as how I appear to be biologically incapable of siring male offspring, maybe this is the way for me to have a son. It’s a win-win. Actually, it’s a win-win-win because my wife won’t have to endure 9 months of pregnancy!

    Sorry if I missed this in another post, but can you provide any web links to adoption sites, such as the one you apparently visited to get the photos you pasted above?

  52. Ray, I’m not trying to beat anything over anyone’s head, just saying that no one perfectly keeps the commandments, including the most important two. No one loves God with all their heart, might, mind and strength, and no one loves all of their neighbors as themself. Christ doesn’t tell us to strive to be perfect, he commands us to be perfect. That the atonement makes up for our weakness does not mean we don’t have weakness.

    I’m just pointing out that no one loves their neighbors as themself, which another way of saying that no one cares as much about their neighbors’ happiness as they do about their own happiness. Does that make sense?

  53. Cyril, the only certainty I have about this is that all of us fall short of the glory of God and need Christ’s mercy if we’re to be saved. None of us loves God or our neighbors as we’ve been commanded.

    MWME, the adoption.com website I found these pictures at seemed to have lots of information and links. You could also speak to your local LDS Family Services, they are state-registered adoption agencies. Let me know what you find out.

  54. It’s kind of frustrating that the Church Social Services doesn’t provide adoption services to members with children of their own.

  55. Dan S.,

    It’s not the principle I dislike. It’s the way religion has of thrusting it on one’s conscience–compulsion, if you will. With religion, one feels judged when one’s motives are not pure–and so it’s like a one-two punch. Wham! You don’t feel like doing something in the first place–and then: Wham! You feel even worse for not being the kind of person who would do it without a grudge. You’re damned if you do and damned if don’t.

    The best we can do is the best we can do. And if that doesn’t add up to pure love, then God will help us get there in time. But having to endure guilt on top of dread is not what I would consider a just reward for doing one’s best–or even something that approximates one’s best.

  56. Matt, it makes sense, but it’s wrong. (I say that with a big smile, but with total sincerity.) I don’t know any people who truly are perfect, but I know quite a few who are so close to perfect in the love category that they might as well be – that it is nit-picking to point out their imperfection. (There is one woman whom I know very well who I think has never thought anything negative about anyone else, who would give and has given nearly everything to others, etc.) I think of Mother Theresa, and I am convinced there are many more like her who live lives of quiet dedication without any effort for recognition. I have seen enough in my administrative callings in the Church to belief that there are many more times that number whom I simply have not met.

    I’m not one of those, but I really do know more than just a few. Some of them are Mormon; some are other Christian; some are Buddhist; some are whatever else; at least one is an atheist who fits if you remove loving God from the picture.

    Perfect is defined in the Gospels (at least in our KJV addition footnotes) as “complete or whole” – NOT as lacking weakness and mistake and sin. In that sense, it is possible – truly possible – to be perfect in following certain commandments – to follow them completely and wholly. There are some very obvious ones, but (based on my experiences) I believe that perfect love really is a gift some are given, a gift that some can be given, and a gift that most will receive only through long-suffering, intense effort and a liberal helping of grace – perhaps most often after death.

    We might not agree on this, but I hope that it at least makes sense.

  57. #63: What? I know members who have adopted through LDS Social Services who have kids of their own. Can anyone confirm this one way or another?

  58. “I believe that perfect love really is a gift … that most will receive only through long-suffering, intense effort and a liberal helping of grace – perhaps most often after death.”


  59. I am not currently in a position to do so-serious health and financial problems. I have always wanted to adopt a child in need-whether that be in the US or internationally. I feel we have a stewardship for one another and for some reason in my heart especially to children.

    We need to find ways to make it work. If we, people who have the restored gospel in our lives, don’t do it who will? I think that as disciples of Christ we have an obligation to find a way to do it. If we don’t, who will? Who will feed these children? Who will hug them when they cry? Who will teach them to be kind and love others? Yes, it would be brutally hard, but don’t we have an obligation?

    I have a good friend that fostered a child. They had a 10 year old a 3 year old and a newborn. This child was subjected to every horrible thing imaginable. It was extremely difficult for the family. I asked her why they did it. She said “I have been blessed with so much how could I not help this child?”. I want to be like her someday-willing to take a risk and do the hard thing because it is the right thing.

  60. Jack,

    I think I see what you are saying. You are equating religion to the individuals who ascribe to the religion who teach the principles, and I agree that relgion can be perceived that way. However, when I think of religion as a pure concept, I don’t think that religion equates to the people, any more than the concepts of school, government, or business equate to the people but rather the principles and precepts that define the concept. (e.g., Apple Inc. is not the same as Steve Jobs, as much as might dislike his presentation. So “religion” is not the same as Matt Evans, Gordon Hinkley, Mohammed, etc., as much as you might like or dislike their presentation.)

    It is true that the presentation of the principles are made by the people. But, if “religion” is stuck in your craw, as you suggest above, may I try to humbly suggest that you tune out the presentation and look straight to the principles. Anyway, I’m probably telling you something you already know.

  61. Plus, I don’t think that “Christianity” as a religion imposes fear or guilt upon individuals. The precepts I read about in Christiantiy, and most religions, are quite the opposite. They free individuals from guilt and fear. Like you said, “pure love” which casts out fear and heals the soul.

  62. I’ve wanted to adopt older children for years and years and years now. It just hasn’t been part of God’s plan for us. It’s been really hard for me to accept.

  63. Okay I need to answer this because we DID adopt an orphan child on Mother’s Day this year. Most everyone seems to worry about the cost. Our daughter’s adoption fees and travel cost were equal to the price of an economy car. We actually need a new car, but decided that adopting her was more important. The US government allows for $10,000 in tax credit for three years after your adoption if you make under $150,000.

    Adopting was not hard. This was way easier for us than the whole pregnancy and delivery thing (by the way that whole experience is highly over-rated in my opinion). It took us one year to the month. She is brilliant, charming, loveable and beautiful. She has a couple of minor problems like Hep B. and very mild spina bifida. Then my other kids have minor problems too i.e. Dyslexia, ADD, malformed kidney and bladder (fixed), Stickler’s Syndrome. In my book everybody has something. If you don’t think you do, then you either don’t know it, or it’ll happen sooner or later.

    As for adopted children growing up to be a mess I can relate just as many or more of biological children who are also a mess. Becoming a parent means that you take a chance and accept the risks that are involved.

    I am so thankful to my Father in Heaven that he directed us to go and get her and bring her into our family. She has been an amazing blessing in many ways. See James 1:27.

    For a great adoption agency see http://www.childrenshopeint.org

  64. It’s kind of frustrating that the Church Social Services doesn’t provide adoption services to members with children of their own.

    They actually have opened up adoption to people with birth children of their own.

    When we realized that my health might limit our opportunity of having more children, we seriously considered adoption. We started in that direction and got the stupor. I agree with all those who say that this is a terribly personal decision and one that requires a lot of prayer and inspiration. I don’t agree with the logic that the gospel somehow requires this of anyone. I do think it’s good to raise the issue for consideration (like Adam said), but I always get uncomfortable when there are even hints of suggesting that somehow anyone is less Christian by not adopting children.

  65. Adopting was not hard.

    But it can be. I have watched my neighbors and others go through the ringer to do it. Glad to hear your experience was so good, though.

  66. 73. When we checked, we could only adopt a special needs child since we already had healthy children. That is not something my family can take on, so we’re exploring other options.

  67. Kyle,
    How long ago was that? As far as I know, that was the old policy. If it’s been a while, you ought to check again.

  68. I heard for years about how hard adoption was. When we actually did the research we found out that adoption does not have to be hard. Some people make it hard on themselves by restricting their options. Often they are looking for a healthy white infant and then have to wait for years (or never) for some teenager to pick them. The trick is to open your heart and mind to the possibilities that God may present. Maybe your child is in another country, is a child of color, special needs (a word on special needs 3 of the 4 of my biological children would have been special needs if put up for adoption), and/or older.

    I cite Ethiopian adoption as an example. The cost for an Ethiopian adoption which includes homestudy, fees and travel for two adults is about $15,000 (remember there is tax credit of now $11,000). From start to finish the process should take between 8-12 months. Travel in country to adopt your child is 5-7 days. Many of the children available are healthy infants.

    Also on this topic my husband’s older brother just adopted a Tongan infant boy from LDS Social services. He and his wife are the parents of seven biological children and two of the seven are married. They waited for years.

  69. Dan S.,

    I think that’s part of it. But I also believe that religion inherently has a tendency to preach “pure love” in a sort of impersonal pious bureacratic way. Now before I start sounding more cynical than I really am, let me say that I believe the Spirit is at work in the church, and is able to address the needs of individuals with eternal nuance. (I believe this is one of the great strengths of the Kingdom–it’s uncanny ability to bridle it’s members with incredible fluidity while maintaining a rigid structure.) The *down* side is that many (including myself) have a tendency to seek God’s love by proving that they are worthy of it–the proof being rooted in an over-zealous adherence to religion, which in turn has a tendency to render their perception of religion as a creedal reduction of light and truth. This (imo) not only demonstrates weakness on the part of particular individuals, but also in religion. Religion is dead without light and truth.

  70. Actually, JA, two of the examples I am thinking of right now were international adoptions. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I suppose “easy” is relative, too, no? : )

  71. 26 — I recommend it because kids in the system are tougher than “normal” kids to raise. If you’ve raised a set, you’ve seen them go from being infants to adults with all of the ups and downs that come with normal life, so you understand about phases, you’ve got some skills in dealing with different phases, and you understand that having a melt-down is not the end of the world. Also, I’ve seen families that, with the best of intentions, adopted some kids from messed-up backgrounds and were unable to deal with the needs of the new kids, and also brought a lot of problems into their relationships with the bio-kids they were raising. However, we’ve got some foster families that mix bio-kids and foster-kids and it works for them just fine, so my recommendation is just that — it’s not a hard and fast rule.

  72. I contribute here now and then, but am using a pseudonym on this thread since some of this may be a bit sensitive and it’s too late in the evening to think through whether it would be good to leave my name or not.

    My spouse and I haven’t been able to have children. Each time we have started the adoption process we’ve had a kind of stupor of thought — a clear impression that this is not what we were to be doing — and so we gave it up. I have no doubt there are certain blessings and joys we don’t have, and certain things we won’t learn or experience, being childless. ( There are also the odd things one might wonder about — how we won’t have a family legacy to pass on. We’ll have to arrange for someone to bury us. And so on.)

    At the same time, without going into specifics, our situation has made it possible to contribute to the kingdom in ways we couldn’t if we had children. (I don’t have time to write this up now and be more specific. I’m sure if you can think of way this would work out.)

    The question Matt brings up (that is, the larger question of truly loving God with all one’s might, truly having a life consecrated to him) is an important one. But it can’t be answered easily by saying ‘Here’s something specific that could be done (in this case, adoption), why aren’t you doing it?’ The reason is that there are also MANY other equally good causes to help solve the world’s ills and further the cause of Zion that one could give time and attention to. One simply can’t do everything. So you become ‘anxiously engaged’ in doing the Lord’s work set out for you — and you do that the best you can, and leave to God the things for which you may feel a kind of guilt/responsibility, but which you can do nothing about (except perhaps pray that God’s will and his righteousness will go forward). The wisdom of the “Think globally, act locally” may play a role here.

  73. My sister has four adopted children that she and her husband adopted as infants, all children born in the USA. I don’t know how hard it was to do, but some were fairly expensive, the last two being 15,000 and 25,000 after all the lawyer, agency fees. It depends on the agency you use, the state the child is born in, deals you work out with the birth mother, etc. But it can be expensive and they have to save a lot before they are able to adopt.

    I think it is kind of sad how the children waiting to be adopted are described here — for example, Julie’s comment where she pulled out all of the disabilities and problems of the children in the pictures. What if these were your children, and their challenges were spelled out for everyone, “Sally S. is hyper-active and a late talker, won’t eat green vegetables.” And then we can all discuss what a challenge it would be to have her in our homes and how we couldn’t do it. Wouldn’t it break your heart to have her judged in that way?

  74. I think everything Ray said about Christ balming our fears and bearing our guilt is true. But if you read the New Testament Christ is also the one creating fear or guilt. Or rather, reminding us of the fear and guilt that we should already have. The New Testament is chock-full of hard sayings that are almost impossible to bear. C.S. Lewis pointed out that only a fool or a Mother Theresa could read the Sermon on the Mount with equanimity and he was right. The light exposes me for how I really am and the truth is that I am far, far short of anything decent.

    I look back on the periods in my life when the balm of Christ was most present and they were the most miserable parts of my life: parts of my mission, my daughter’s long struggle with cancer and her death. The fact is that Christ did not remove my suffering or make the whole thing sweet. He just bore me up enough so that it wasn’t completely unbearable and then from time to time he comforted me. So these experiences were something like black shot through with light. I think the experience of our sinful state is something like that. I think that at least sometimes he doesn’t make us feel cheerful and happy about who we are, but he does relieve the pain of who we are enough that we can bear it and gives us the immense experience from time to time of love, forgiveness, and change.

  75. Blain,
    thanks for your advice. It means a lot.

    I hear you. One of the advantages of having natural children is that God can give you a child that you wouldn’t take if left to your own devices, and you’ll love and care for that child. You’ll find that you have more capability than you know.

  76. M&M, maybe it is relative. I just heard discouraging comments about adoption for years from people who really did not know; it was just not so. A little more on our experience. As I said earlier we started the paperwork in May 2006; in July 2006 we received our daughter’s file. It was “hard” looking at her picture every day and not knowing if she was safe and well-cared for. What was easy was that could still be a mother to my other children because was not sick in bed or throwing up every day for nine months. Having had biological children and now an adopted child I can witness that I had the same feelings while “paper pregnant” for my adopted daughter as for my biological children.

    On the day we received her, Mother’s Day 2007, was one of the most earth-stopping spiritual, emotional experiences of my life. Our daughter was late in arriving. We watched as other parents met their child for the first time. I am so thankful that we had the privilege of watching those sacred moments. Finally she arrived; three years old, cute, confident and well (except for a cold). She came right to us called us Mama and Baba. Later grieving set in. We had a “hard” couple of days and then it slowly started to get better. A few days later we visited her orphanage. That experience truly was hard. No heat, air-conditioning, seasonable clothes, enough food, toys, and attention. It will be forever seared into my mind the babies strapped into those little brown chairs to catch their poop; Ten flies per kid, scabies covering their little faces, and blank expressions. The director was discussing with one of the nannies there about a baby that was dying and if they took the long drive into the hospital whether they would make it or not.

    Three months later we can not believe the progress she has made. She is happy, loving, bright and a wonderful daughter and sister. She has blessed the lives of our other children. My other kids are well aware of the great blessing of family. They understand that not all children have parents, food to eat, or warm beds to sleep in. For them they know that they are truly blessed.

    I ask of those who read this comment please for the sake for the waiting children of the world: say a heartfelt prayer. If your answer is yes, ask God where in the great big world your child is; and then open your mind and heart to the possibilities that your child is not in the US, not with LDS Social Services, not white. Then imagine one of your children in the same circumstances as I described. With God’s help you will find a way. The journey will be sweet and not hard.

  77. #83 – Amen, Adam. That’s why I call life the “muddle in the middle” – and I am only able to muddle in that middle because I feel both His command to be what I can’t be and His assurance that ultimately it’s OK that I can’t be what I’m commanded to be. I feel the pricking of the Spirit more often than I wish I did telling me to do what I’m not doing; however, I also feel the balming of the Spirit more often than I deserve telling me my efforts are acceptable. It’s an interesting ride.

  78. Adam:

    I can take hard sayings from Christ. I can take them from those who have some sort of spiritual jurisdiction over me. I have a much harder time with “why aren’t you doing this?” types of edicts from random people, even if they went to Harvard.

    The answer for me is because I simply cannot add another thing to my life right now, and I don’t think the Lord expects me to do so. If he did, I would (and have).

  79. Adam #23:

    Something else that has always been a hangup for me but I’ve been too embarassed to track down is whether you can establish an IQ range for kids before you adopt them. I’ve got this idea that it would be hard on a kid who was fairly normal to be raised in a family where they significantly deviated from the IQ range of the other children, and it seems like the parents would have to adjust their parenting style significantly too. Am I daft?

    ADAM!!!!!! Has nobody called you on this yet??? After all the discussion we’ve been having about allowing children with Down syndrome to be born????

    Adam. I am shocked.

    Yes, you are daft (on this point).

  80. Jordan F.,
    The hard parts about Matt E.’s posts are the parts where he repeats what Christ asks of us. If repeating the hard sayings in connection with adoption doesn’t discomfit you then carry on. If it does, don’t blame the messenger.

    JA Benson,
    Its very good to hear your experience.

    ‘Muddle in the middle’ is good. However, I’ve never felt ‘it’s OK that I can’t be what I’m commanded to be’ and I would be shocked if I did. Your last three sentences are more like what I’ve experienced.

    I suspected that was the answer.

  81. I contribute to A Child\’s Hope Foundation which is a humanitarian charity based in Provo that cares for orphaned children in developing countries then helps them get adopted. I plan on adopting a child later on in life, and I have found that although the costs appear high, there is an IRS tax credit which can offset the cost by over $10,000. I plan on getting a Home equity line of credit and just paying the interest so overall the adoption will only cost me closer to $5000.

  82. Adam, I used to feel the same way. So when I call you daft on that point, I’m calling myself formerly daft.

    Matt, question for you: if our responsibility as married LDS is to bear as many children as we can well care for, should we bear one less biological child so that we can adopt an orphan child?

  83. Matt E, I think you have provided a good service reminding people that adoption is an alternative and may be appropriate for some couples. My wife and I have discussed adoption, and we don’t feel it’s appropriate for us. No guilt, no shame. We’ve considered it, and it’s not right for us. But thanks for this post.

  84. I wonder if there is something more we could do as a people to facilitate adoptions beyond individual families or adults taking on the responsibility. Could we have a different kind of help from the primary that might support adoption better? Could we have more visibility of what LDS Social Services can do and perhaps have it better integrated with other agencies? (I have no knowledge of how they work and I am just thinking off the top of my hat.) Perhaps a series of articles in the Ensign? Are there other ways we might make these burdens lighter and make it possible for more people to hear the call of the Lord to rescue these children and give them better homes and a better shot at life?

    I recognize it is not the same; but for some reason my mind keeps coming back to the old Indian Placement Program as I read this discussion. (Perhaps a real historian can help us out here.) What I think happened was this: A few local southern Utah sugarbeet farmers hired Indians to do their hard field work. Some of them got to know their workers and learned about their families and had compassion for the plight of the Indian children who did not have very good educational opportunities on the reservation. So they started to take the children of their workers into their own homes during the school year and educate them in their better schools. I think this would have started on an individual basis before WWII. I think the idea must have worked under those circumstances or it would not have been taken to the next step.

    Eventually the church institutionalized it in the 1950’s and brought hundreds of children off the reservations into the suburbs all along the Wasatch front. The children had to be baptised LDS and it was voluntary. When I went to school we had at least a couple dozen placement students in my small school. Our neighbors and relatives had placement students. I recall quite a bit of pressure and a quota system that the Bishopric imposed on the ward members when I was young. Many Bishops in order not to be hypocrites took on this responsibility themselves. My parents were approached and pressured to do it by our Bishopric, but we had several other serious problems and did not do it.

    I think there must have been many positive outcomes. But I know of none of them personally. Most of the Indian children came for a few years in grade school/junior high but stopped coming before graduating from high school. Some examples of the worst problems I saw:

    -One distant relative, a Bishop, had 11 children. Their Indian girl was about the same age as their older children. She got sexually involved with the brothers and then got them involved sexually with their sisters. This lead to the younger boys molesting their younger sisters. Multiple years of increasing younger incest while the parents were hyper-active in ward callings and then multiple more years of therapy with permanent damage was the result. Some of those children in that family are so messed up they will never marry. Some have gone on to make extremely poor choices in marriage partners and the problems continue into the next generation. Some of them have put this in the past.

    -A friend of mine on the HS track team told me that when a girl turned twelve and started her reproductive cycle it was their custom for several dozen male relatives to rape her all at once. This would teach her to avoid intimate relations with other men.. He confided in me that he felt terribly guilty for doing this to his little sister when he had always been the one to protect her from the beatings of their drunken father. He was not about to tell any adult about this and I think he regretted telling me since he distanced himself from me after that.

    – My aunt had a Indian boy about 11 years old who beat up her own son who about 3 years older almost every day. He also tore their house up and it cost thousands of dollars to repair the damage. When he started hitting her hard enough to knock her down and when only her husband could physically handle him, they felt they had to make the terribly difficult decision to give up on him even though they loved him, and send him back.

    -Our neighbors had a placement girl who got their daughter of a similar age to use drugs. Both girls were sexually promiscuous. Although I think the sexual problems started before the Indian girl showed up and were outside the parents knowledge, she did not help matters. They sent her back when the police arrested them.

    – The best basketball player at my school was from the reservation. He was big and strong and quick and aggressive. But he was such a dirty player that he fouled out before the first half of every game. He wouldn’t listen to anyone tell him how to play. At times he would get so angry that it seemed he was capable of murder. He didn’t care about winning the game, just settling scores with others who violated his dignity and pride which happens all the time in a basketball game. Playing through pure psychological intimidation did not work on motivated kids from other schools. Later we found out he was about 3 years older than he claimed and he never did graduate from high school. It would surprize no one who knew him then if he did not end up in prison for some violent crime.

    -I must include a reference to George Lee who was the poster child for the success of this program. He was one of the most effective public speakers among the church leaders of his time. He had a problem with how the church leaders conducted programs for the Indians. He did not keep these disagreements private. He also fondled at least one 12 year old girl’s breasts and admitted guilt in court. It was presumed there were other similar episodes. I heard he became a highly effective anti-Mormon force and did much damage to the reputation of the church on the reservation after his excommunication.

    I think that even at best the Indian Placement children grew up with mixed identities. Were they Indians from the reservation loyal to usually dysfunctional families or were they adopted children from good families in the Mormon suburbs? I think that President Spencer Kimball had quite a bit of faith that the good would ultimately outweigh the bad. But after he died in 1985 I think the program was greatly reduced and eventually terminated.

    What we can learn from this experience is that it takes more than just a strong commitment to idealistic principles to overcome these kind of problems. It would be nice if we all could adopt children. But after several decades the Indian Placement program was ended, not because the need evaporated, but because the program did not work well enough and resulted in quite a bit of colateral damage. I would be careful about adopting children out of a vague idealistic and moralistic motivation. I think you need to hear the call to do this work from within after a realistic assessment of the problems and difficulties. I also think more of us could search for such a call and listen more carefully for it to come.

  85. re: 97, p. 2-4

    Didn’t the old Indian Placement Program prove highly controversial? Anybody remember the details?

  86. I think using the Indian Placement program as an example for why people should not adopt because of ideals is misplaced. That program was flawed for reasons other than mere desire to relieve suffering children by making them members of our families. After a more charitable reading of Matt’s comments, I am convinced (and hope I am right) that he is not calling us on the carpet for not adopting, though I initially read that into his comments. I don’t think he is advocating an “every member an adoptive parent” program. At least I hope not.

    I am sure that anyone adopting children would do so out of more than some “vague idealistic and moralistic motivation”. Rather, they would do so because they feel the need to add one of these special ones to their family, and in so doing they would serve the master by serving what is surely one of the least of these his brethren/sisters. I think I get it now.

  87. Mary wrote, “I think it is kind of sad how the children waiting to be adopted are described here — for example, Julie’s comment where she pulled out all of the disabilities and problems of the children in the pictures.”

    I did that for the very specific reason of rounding out Matt’s of portrayal of happy smiling children and suggesting to Matt that taking on one of these children is a huge undertaking that probably isn’t wise for most families who already have young children in the home. Matt’s original post made it sound as if the average LDS were negligent for not taking in one of these kids. My point in highlighting their special needs was to show that the average LDS household is ill-equipped to meet the needs of these children and may very well cause undue stress that could result in marital problems, problems for older children, etc.

    No one likes to face the reality that older kids waiting for adoption are waiting for a reason–namely, that most families aren’t equipped (financially, emotionally, special skill sets) to adopt them. But it’s true.

  88. Adam (95), that’s my answer as well. So what I want to know from Matt is–how can a LDS couple justify adopting a child if that means having fewer children biologically? And wouldn’t this “if” apply to all couples able to bear children? How can adoption not be a trade-off?

  89. Well, KLS, its possible that adopting a child wouldn’t mean having fewer natural children. Also a couple’s ability to have kids biologically safely might run out before their ability to parent does.

  90. Adam, definitely yes to your second sentence–but I’m iffy on the first.

    Questions I would ask myself before considering an adoption like the ones Matt suggests (barring some lightning-bolt spiritual experience that directs me to adopt anyway):

    –Are we able to care for another child physically, emotionally, and spiritually?

    –Do we have a compelling reason why we should adopt a child rather than bear another biological child?

    –Are we confident we can meet the particular challenges that adopting an older child, a disabled child, and/or a foreign child might bring?

    –Are we confident that the addition of an adopted child will not detract from the well-being of our other children?

    Of all the people whose heartstrings are wrenched by the plight of orphan children, I don’t think there are many of us who can answer yes to all of these questions.

  91. Adam, I forgot to add my personal take: I feel I have reached my limit of safely bearing biological children. If we decide we can care for another child, we have discussed the possibility of adopting a child with Down syndrome. I imagine this is not an uncommon phenomenon (hitting physical limitations before emotional/financial/spiritual ones). And I agree that those of us in this situation should consider adopting a child with special needs (in one form or another). But nobody should move forward without a deep-seated desire to care for an atypical child. Pity is not enough.

  92. Mike,


    “Were they Indians from the reservation loyal to usually dysfunctional families or were they adopted children from good families in the Mormon suburbs?”

    Sorry Mike, but that is probably the most racist thing I have read in a long time. The rest of your post isn’t much better.

    The Indian Placement Program had many successes and many, many of the most faithful saints in Indian Country are alumni of the program.

  93. KLS, I think the kinds of questions you’re asking in 103 are sensible, but I’d add in two thoughts: first, minimal, mediocre parenting is often better than nothing. Confidence that you’d do a bang-up job isn’t necessary. Just as in deciding to get married, there is such a thing as being too ill-prepared for marriage, but there is also such a thing as putting off marriage unwisely because of the risks involved.

    Second, I’m not sure that we can always say that adoption, mission work, or other charitable acts are warranted only if they do not negatively affect at all the welfare of our children or our marriage or ourselves.

  94. In our case, there was a genetic reason to turn to adoption after having biological children. we have experienced overall positive results.. have adopted older children as well, and mixed racial (black) children. Adopting within our own state has also been relatively inexpensive, esp. since a number of our children were fostered by us, prior to adoption, which took a year on average, and in a few cases we received payments each month to help with expenses, called “subsidized adoption”.. you might look into this thru your local state adoption agencies.. you would be wise to check all records carefully for early abuse, even drug and alcohol addiction at birth.. mental and physical deficiencies.. sometimes adopting the older child is helpful because you can see the child’s progress in so many areas, positive and negative, and that’s okay.

  95. Confidence that you’d do a bang-up job isn’t necessary.

    –no, but it is necessary to have confidence that you’ll be able to meet the child’s needs. It’s easy–and dangerous–to romanticize something like this.

    I’m not sure that we can always say that adoption, mission work, or other charitable acts are warranted only if they do not negatively affect at all the welfare of our children or our marriage or ourselves.

    –Of course not. But we don’t call ourselves on missions. Without a clear mandate from the Lord, deliberately subjecting my children to a harmful situation in the name of charity would be foolish indeed.

    Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But the opposite is also true.

    When we had two small children my husband and I seriously considered adopting two of our nephews, who had a variety of behavior problems. I felt that we could provide them a much better home than what they’d receive as wards of the state. I was eager to minister to these children, even eager to face the challenges they would bring to our family. I felt that our Christian sacrifice would surely be endorsed by the Lord. But he said no. When I discussed this with a wise friend of mine I expressed my surprise. She said, “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s right.”

  96. M&M, maybe it is relative. I just heard discouraging comments about adoption for years from people who really did not know; it was just not so.

    JA, I add my thanks to you sharing your experience. I am actually a bit envious, because I have wanted something like this to be right for us. I realized last nite that my comments might come across as discouraging, and I didn’t mean them to be so. I just think it helps to know going in that it does take time, sometimes there are setbacks, BUT that doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful and worthwhile. If it is the right thing to do. And ultimately, this to me is the most important question. If it’s hard, so what? If it’s easy, so what? Neither is a reason to do it or not to do it. Adoption is a wonderful blessing, but it won’t be right for everyone.

    Ah, and now I see that KLS said it well: “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But the opposite is also true.” And just because something is doable doesn’t make it right either. Personal experience has taught me that what may be obvious or easy or right for someone else simply can’t be generalized to anyone else. And God expects us to struggle through these kinds of questions and trust Him to guide us. My experience is that He does, but His answers won’t always look “right” or “charitable” or “_______” (fill in the blank with whatever other trait willingness to adopt might reflect) to someone else. And sometimes it’s harder to go on faith with those answers than do what “seems” to be good in other people’s estimation. Not having more children is not what I really want. But I’m not about to go against what we have felt to be right for us, even if it doesn’t all make sense. Maybe that will change, maybe it won’t. We revisit the questions often, and I will continue to do so.

    I like the questions KLS poses in 103.

    I also am glad KLS asked the question about reducing the number of biological children to adopt instead. I find it interesting that most people are willing to put up their dukes and protect the privacy aspect of choosing how many children to bear, but it seems there is less realization that adopting a child is no less a personal, private and spiritual decision than deciding to bear a child. Is it the compassion for living children struggling that makes this so? Does adopting a child absolve us from the responsibility to bear children if we can?

    One last thought. Someone talked above about the American lifestyle and seemed to suggest that maybe we are living too cushily and instead should consider adoption (as if adopting is an option to swimming lessons and sports, or blogging {grin}). If I’m understanding correctly, I think this kind of logic is flawed. Adopting a child isn’t just about swapping out a couple of extra activities. It’s a lifetime commitment of significant proportions that affects parents and children alike.

    I know for us that even if we eliminated everything extra in our lives, having another child in our family right now would still not be right. Again, I think it’s a good question for people to ask (is this something we should consider?) but generalizations about the fact that many people don’t adopt seem inappropriate to me.

  97. A big amen, m&m, on all counts.

    I like how Amira pointed out that there’s much that can be done to help these children without adopting them. If nothing else, money can be given. It’s no substitute for providing a home, but it is something many of us can and should do.

    And JA Benson, I hope you’ll add your experience to our Segullah thread about adoption. http://segullah.org/segullah-article-discussions/a-living-sacrifice-part-v-adoption/

  98. “taking on one of these children is a huge undertaking that probably isn’t wise for most families who already have young children in the home”

    Wise? It was _wise_ of the priest to pass by on the other side, and not approach the stranded Levite who might be bait, or if not bait, who would certainly slow him down and make it harder to reach town before dark. All forms of service require accepting risks to oneself and one’s family. I could be hit by a car while changing someone’s flat. The problem is that she could be hit by a car changing her flat, too. And Jesus says that to Him, she is Him, and that she should be Him to me, too.

    In most cases there is someone who would be better suited to help than we are (AAA for flat tires; wealthy, happy and child-free Christian couples for adoptees; EMTs for beaten Levites) but that doesn’t excuse our inaction when they fail to step up.

  99. Matt,

    As important as charity is, I just am not sure that you can equate a lifetime commitment to adopt to stopping and helping someone with a flat tire. The only way we can know if something is wise is to do the whole D&C 9 thing — study it out and ask God. We simply can’t apply a formula or generalize in any way with this situation, either stating reasons people should adopt or why they shouldn’t.

    I know a very large family who have adopted more than half of their children. It’s doable to be sure. But I’ve also watched another family feel impressed to turn down child after child (momma of large fam helped them get connected over and over again, and it kept feeling wrong!) and run into barrier after barrier to get their three kids in 8 years. And I’ve talked to people (like us) who feel inspired NOT to adopt at all. There is no common anything, minus a desire to do what the Lord guides them to do.

    The tension involved in a decision like this is thick. Wisdom and order must be tempered with diligence. And there is simply no way for anyone to tell another where that balance can be reached. But isn’t that a key part of our existence? It’s not just to go around trying to be the most charitable or diligent, but to learn to do God’s will. There are certain generalizable things we can put under God’s will for all. Adoption is not one of them. Many decisions, even based on true principles, will yield different specifics, even when all variables appear to be the same.

  100. Adoption (particularly of older children) is not for everyone, but then again, neither is parenting.

    I adopted two children separately, a five-year-old whose adoption finalization took five more years, and later a seven-year-old, whom I adopted as a single parent of the special needs previously adopted child. (So yes, single parents CAN adopt, and yes, they CAN survive the financial and emotional demands.) In both instances, I adopted through my state because even LDS Social Services was way out of my financial ballpark. I fostered nine kids before I adopted the first one, so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into.

    I wanted more than anything to have a child I could keep, one that didn’t have to go back to a bad environment when “mom” and/or “dad” completed some stupid court-ordered program that supposedly fixed the problem only to watch the kid go back into foster care again a few months later for the same reason(s) or worse. Both of my kids came from severe backgrounds, the worst you can imagine.

    In retrospect, I wish I had not adopted the second child. I now believe the special needs of the second child jeopardized the special needs of the first child, but at the time, I thought I had enough love, consistency and stability to fix anything. Now I realize not everything can be fixed.

    I used to be the world’s biggest supporter of older-child adoptions. But when the state turns on you when things start to get bad and try to blame you for the things that were caused by the family or families before you came into the picture, adoption can leave a really sour taste in your mouth.

    I was lucky. Or better yet, blessed. I was able to work my way through the state’s continual attacks against my character and preserve my dignity as well as my sanity, I didn’t lose my job, and I’ve now five years later finally finished paying off the legal obligations/damages caused by the second child. Both my kids have reverted to the lifestyles of their biological families. I know I gave them more than anyone else could have/would have. I know I taught them what God expected me to. And I know they are better off because they spent time in my family.

    But this has not been the happy ending I thought we would get. It didn’t turn out the way I thought Heavenly Father had planned it. And it has left me scared stiff to try again, although I am healing and yearning for children again.

    One of the things I might do is mentor kids in a specific age range, ages I feel comfortable with and not afraid of. I would encourage others who decide adoption is not for them to look into that kind of opportunity, too. You can send them home at night and have your life back until the next time you spend time together. Sometimes you need that vacation just to be able to face the possibility the child you’re trying to help may not show any immediate change or benefit after all you have done.

    Because I was raised in a blended family, I didn’t think bringing new foster kids into my little adoptive family would cause problems. The more the merrier. But as others have hinted or detailed, you need to be careful what you expose your own children to, even if they are your adopted children. I also had one adoption counselor tell me I should never mess with birth order. If you have a child who has always been the oldest or the youngest, don’t change that. Don’t take in a child who will mess up the pecking order. If I’d ever been able to have a child of my own, knowing what I know now, I would wait until the child was grown before bringing older foster/adopt children into my home. I’ve seen families with multiple biological children successfully raise adoptive and foster children successfully, and the biological children grew into more compassionate citizens than children who never have such opportunities to share and teach. But that takes a very special family and commitment, and I don’t think there are many who can offer or achieve that.

    Fifteen years ago, the cost to adopt a child through my state was $88. That doesn’t include training (which takes about two years in order to take in some special needs children), classes (which sometimes you have to pay for, depending upon your state), background checks, bringing your home into certification and medical testing that is required now. A heck of a lot cheaper than what you can get through just about any other agency or organization, though.

    And for the record, both my kids were happy, smiling little cherubs when I first met them. The second one was a Wednesday’s child, advertised all over the state just like the little kids pictured above.

  101. Matt, the priest didn’t already have six little Samaritans and a spouse at home in need of attention. If he had, he would have been justified in not stopping.

  102. “There are certain generalizable things we can put under God’s will for all. Adoption is not one of them.”

    m&m, I believe God could tell some people they shouldn’t adopt, but I think it would be a pretty small number. I just can’t believe God discourages very many people from raising sick kids rescued from awful orphanages. Maybe he tells some of them no because they’re adopting more for their own benefit than for the kids’, and he wants them to learn something first. I don’t know. But I agree that God probably tells some people they should not adopt even when their intentions are perfect.

    I disagree with the sentences I’ve quoted above, however. I think any adult stranded on an island with a bunch of kids would be morally obligated to care for them as his own. He’s the only one who can do it. It seems to me that my moral obligation is the same whether the kids need my help because no one else can help them or because no one else will help them.

  103. Julie, it would depend on the relative needs of the family and the stranger. I shouldn’t stop to help a widow load her groceries if my house is on fire, and if my neighbor’s house is on fire I shouldn’t go help my wife and kids with dinner and homework. There aren’t many situations where someone traveling home would know his family needs exceeded those of a stranger he found at the side of the road “stripped,” “wounded” and “half dead.”

  104. You don’t have to be. As you readily point out, we are all sinners. But, realizing the error of your ways, that is one less sin with which to encumber yourself. Let your reflections on this topic then be those that bring about whatever changes you feel are necessary, rather than the sorrowing of the damned.

  105. I think any adult stranded on an island with a bunch of kids would be morally obligated to care for them as his own. He’s the only one who can do it. It seems to me that my moral obligation is the same whether the kids need my help because no one else can help them or because no one else will help them.

    I don’t think you can equate a stranded island with limited people and a defined boundary of who can help and who needs help and a world full of children and a million other good causes to help alleviate suffering as well. I think God expects us to care and do our best to develop charity, but I see nothing compelling to convince me that the key way to be charitable is to adopt an orphan, noble though that endeavor could be.

    I also think it’s presumptuous to assume that the number God could tell not to adopt would be small. Or large. I think sometimes we think that the end of our existence is to fix all the problems that exist out there, and I really think it’s only part of what should matter to us. And if we should assume that all of us should really be adopting, why shouldnt’ we all be selling our homes and living in tents and giving our money away? Really, where does the line come? This gets to your other post, I realize, but I just think that by getting too specific about what we “should” be doing, we might miss the process of what life is really about — learning by our own experience and seeking God’s guidance in all that we do.

  106. Jordan F., there’s no sorrowing of the damned here, only a recognition of how far we fall short of God’s glory, and how thoroughly we must change before we’re celestial.

    m&m, “I see nothing compelling to convince me that the key way to be charitable is to adopt an orphan, noble though that endeavor could be”

    From the outset I’ve acknowledged that some pursuits “morally withstand the gravitational pull of children in need of family.” Those pursuits would include the good acts that conflict with raising an orphan.

    why shouldn’t we all be selling our homes and living in tents and giving our money away?

    Careful what you ask. Yet lackest thou one thing . . .

  107. I think Matt’s right in that the scriptures ask us hard questions and it’s tempting to avoid such questions for trite reasons. And I think there’s a certain despair and frustration that amounts to “losing oneself” in allowing ourselves to be asked such questions (that is, by the scriptures). If we don’t do this, we risk being “at ease” in our own little Zion, or feeling guilty when issues like this are brought up. On the other hand, if we face up to these kind of questions, on a regular basis, then I think we can enjoy a strong sense of peace knowing we truly “offering our whole souls as an offering to God.”

    At least that’s how I think I tend to respond to attempts to guilt-trip me (i.e. it doesn’t affect me when I’m truly feeling square with God…).

  108. If you have adoption links, helpful information, or a personal experience that would be helpful to those reading this thread, please email it to adam at times and seasons dot org or matt at times and seasons dot org. We’ll probably add it.

  109. International adoption resources from a sisterly reader:

    Thanks for your attention to the waiting children of the world. We used Children’s Hope and had a wonderful experience. Holt International was the very first international adoption agency and I have heard good things about them. The Holt website has valuable information for those thinking about adoption. I have been impressed with Half the Sky Foundation since thy first began in the late nineties. They have accomplished much in a few short years. Rainbow kids is also a good source of information for those seeking information. Families Thru International Adoption helped with the care of my child. These are all reputable organizations.

    Children’s Hope International Adoption agency at http://www.childrenshopeint.org

    Holt International Adoption Agency at http://www.holtintl.org

    Half the Sky Foundation at http://www.halfthesky.org

    Rainbow Kids at http://www.rainbowkids.com

    Families Thru International Adoption http://www.ftia.org

    Joanna Benson

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