Children of God or Chattel of Men?

InfantAre we property or precious children?

[This post is a collaboration between Meg Stout and Lucinda Hancock. The illustration is courtesy of Pat Chiu.]

Bottom Line Up Front: This is not about what has happened in the past for those who are now parents. It is about what individuals who wish to become parents do in their future, and how current parents who used non-traditional methods of becoming a parent treat their child.

Last year Lucinda Hancock wrote  Paradoxical Patriarchy. Lucinda explored the way marriage channels human desire for the good of children.

Recently Lucinda shared an article with Meg about a reckless fertility clinic where a sperm donor (father of 36 children born to 26 women) was discovered to be not the PhD candidate in neuroscience engineering as advertised, but a schizophrenic college drop-out and jailbird who is usually unemployed.

Responding to that article, Lucinda complained that much that afflicts society boils down to how we regard children, with many anti-traditionalists seeing parents as having a right to children, rather than children having a right to their parents.

Children begin life with no ability to arrange matters to meet their own interests. To enable children to thrive, successful societies throughout history have held parents to their duty to support the successful transition of children to adults. A right to marry and become a parent was the best way to preserve children’s right to their own parents. Marriage and its attendant traditions served the function of maximizing the chances that children would have the benefit of having meaningful help from their parents.

In contrast, moderns assert they have a right to marry that is independent of children. Bringing children into modern families is all about “making dreams come true” for the grown-up(s), with little regard for any natural right of a child to their parents. In our time, we regard the kind of traditions which steer individuals into marriage (and keep them there) as cruel, traditions like stigmatizing out-of-wedlock birth and divorce, as well as criminalizing sexual licentiousness, with attendant punishments.

The Redacted Wisdom of Jane Galt

In 2005 “Jane Galt” 1 posted an insightful article that is now only available on the internet archive. At the time she pointed out that changing the rules of society (as proposed by gay marriage proponents) can have unforeseen consequences. Worse, the consequences can be exactly those foretold by the critic who at the time seemed like a hysterical negativist.

Galt said, “I am bothered by this specific argument, which I have heard over and over from the people I know who favor gay marriage laws. I mean, literally over and over; when they get into arguments, they just repeat it, again and again. “I will get married even if marriage is expanded to include gay people; I cannot imagine anyone up and deciding not to get married because gay people are getting married; therefore, the whole idea is ridiculous and bigoted.”

“They may well be right. Nonetheless, libertarians should know better. The limits of your imagination are not the limits of reality. Every government programme that libertarians have argued against has been defended at its inception with exactly this argument.”

Galt then discussed several instances where legal changes fundamentally altered society. She said these examples didn’t proclaim her to be opposed to same gender marriage. It was just that same gender marriage did have the potential to fundamentally alter society, as other rule changes have done in the past.

Galt’s first example was imposition of an income tax. When income taxation became law, some senators proposed to cap it at 10%. This proposal was shot down because it was believed no one would ever stand for taxes rising as high as 10%.

Galt then spoke of the compassionate changes to public housing. In the 1950s public housing had only been available to white traditional families. When the rules changed to allow for non-whites, it was also decided that rules requiring marriage were uncompassionate. Critics worried more women would choose to be single mothers under these changes. But the majority argued no one would ever choose to become an unmarried mother. Yet now, Galt pointed out, women “who wanted to get married essentially found themselves in competition for young men with women who were willing to have sex, and bear children, without forcing the men to take any responsibility.” By 1990 the rate of illegitimate births had skyrocketed, reached 70% in the black community. As far fewer than 70% of the black population lives in public housing, this shows how policy ostensibly for a limited portion of the populace can influence individuals well outside the population targeted by the policy.

Galt then talked about the liberalization of divorce laws, whigh reduced the social stigma of divorce. This accommodation turned marriage from an institution that most people remained in for a lifetime into a short-term and non-binding contract. When marriage was permanent, individuals were more serious about the initial decision, and more commited to making life easier given the high price of exit. People couldn’t believe that liberalization of divorce would affect every marriage. They believed average marriages would remain as solid as they had ever been. Surely no one would ever choose divorce just because it was easy. But with hindsight, we can see that when the price of divorce dropped, marriage ceased being about stability for children. Marriage became linked to fantasies regarding romance and friendship between spouses, expected to satisfy lofty promises of ultimate adult fulfillment. When the marriage relationship between the adults fails to meet these expectations and is terminated, the children are expected to just dealt with it.

Galt finished her essay suggesting that those advocating for same gender marriage consider the possibility that society might be altered if they got their way. In 2005 her essay was applauded. By 2012 her essay had been removed from the Internet.

Even thought Galt removed her essay, the impact of the laws she cites can be seen in the skyrocketing rate of illegitimacy and poverty in America, social ills that are disproportionately associated with children raised without fathers and the racial profiles where fathers were less likely to be encouraged to be responsible fathers by other factors, see the Heritage article on Marriage as America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty

But children do better when they are wanted, and I WANT A CHILD!

With the advent of reproductive technologies, children can be be created without heterosexual intercourse, as in the case of the mothers who had themselves impregnated using the sperm of the schizophrenic criminal. In other cases couples unable to produce a child due to any number of biological challenges can force their respective gametes to form a child.

Meg watched her daughter yearn for a child for seven years. But despite the tangible hunger her daughter frequently expressed to have a child, daughter and son-in-law came to the determination that if nature didn’t permit a child, there might be a genetic health issue causing the problem. Though nature ultimately decided to cooperate, Meg was struck by the maturity of their willingness to forego children of their own get if by forcing the issue they caused the produced child to risk unnecessary health problems.

Lucinda points out that it is not merely the health risks a child faces when they are forcibly produced through technological intervention. They are being created by individuals who believe they are entitled to children. This comes with the fundamental paradigm that ‘my child is there for me,’ rather than the other way around.

When marriage was effectively permanent it could be counted on to reliably connect a man and woman to their children. Laws reflected this in assigning paternity to the husband of the mother. As the primary purpose of marriage became divorced from duty toward children, some other means of assessing readiness for a child was needed.

As a society we settled on wantedness. A child, however created, would be best served by being wanted, we told ourselves. But in the shift, we forgot the fundamental yearning children have for connection to their own, biological parents.

Referring back to the article regarding the schizophrenic sperm donor, these dozens of women now have children whose biological heritage is something they never would have intentionally inflicted on a child. The mothers were sold the idea that they could have what they wanted in a child without the hassle of vetting potential fathers themselves. They really believed that there are great men out there who don’t mind selling off their their future children, because they’ve bought into the idea that what matters is whether a child is wanted (by the mother), rather than thinking about what a child would want. The more traditional idea is receiving children as a gift, despite the difficulties in fulfilling parental duties. But now children are procured or created to fill an adult’s need to be a parent.

Even Adoption is not Ideal

Adoption is noble from the perspective of the adults (and truly, an adult who volunteers to care for another’s child as their own is exhibiting exceptional character). Yet adoption fails to give a child their “real” parents. Some well-intentioned adoptive parents have asserted to the children they adopt that somehow being ‘wanted’ is *better* than just existing as the result of sex, which is no longer reflective of a conscious intent to invite and care for children. But this idea usually doesn’t have the desired effect of healing the adopted child. Instead the child is made to feel they’re ungrateful and bad for wishing they could have been raised by their own parents, wishing that their biological parents had wanted them.

Adoption is often a matter of extraordinary self-sacrifice when it is a commitment to alleviate the emotional burden of an abandoned child. But when it becomes a way to assert the superiority of intentional parenting, it moves away from being able to heal wounds, and moves toward delegitimizing the sense of loss experienced by children abandoned by parents. Indeed, the goodwill afforded to adoptive parents, who have stepped in as noble healers, has been coopted by the idea of superiority of intentional parenting, which has given peddlers of “create your dream family” abusive power over the lives of children.

While one can certainly hope that most adoptive parents are a blessing to the child, it is undeniable that adoption can be horribly abused, as seen in the Washington State cases of terrible and sometimes lethal abuse of adopted children from Ethiopia. The term “Re-homing” has been coined to explain the way unwanted adopted children are passed forward, as described in this Seattle Globalist article on international adoption.

Denying Ourselves all Ungodliness… For the Benefit of Our Children

Now that we might be acknowledging that where we currently are, as a culture, is not where humanity has always been, it may be beneficial to investigate where the sliding “norm” surrounding parenting went wrong.

Let us put forward an anecdote. We know a woman whose adoptive mother told her she wasn’t loved, because she wasn’t “really” the woman’s daughter. [Lucinda rants, “Where did this adoptive mother get the idea that adopting a child was about her feelings?”] Well did James write, “the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”

It may be coincidental, but this adopted woman ended up being raped two times in her youth. It seems reasonable to suspect that part of the vulnerability her attackers sensed could have been related to her sense that she was not a welcome child in her family, despite initially being “wanted.”

What is not coincidental is the finding that adopted children are more likely to be abused than children being raised by their biological parents. In a 1992 NIH study of why teenage girls become pregnant out of wedlock in Washington State, the majority had been abused, with over 40% having been assaulted.

Do we who are blessed with children deny ourselves cruel words and actions? When we do damage our children, do we beg God and our children for forgiveness?

If we do not yet have children, and are thinking of either procuring a child or creating a child outside of a traditional family structure, are we truly considering the needs of the child? Might it not be better to deny ourselves than fundamentally sever a child from their biological heritage for our selfish purposes?

[Divorce is another area where children are likely to suffer negative consequences, as explained by serious studies, such as this Joseph Rowntree study looking at the outcomes for children of divorce. Looking at my own family, I see how divorce created huge negative outcomes for my eldest daughter. She has overcome these, but it was a terrifying struggle.]

Children of God

We are children of God. Do we remember the obligation that comes with that? It is our obligation to remember the rights of children, these most vulnerable mortal members of our eternal family.

The prophet and apostles have already given us The Family Proclamation, part of which reads:

Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

To paraphrase King Benjamin:

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your children ye are only in the service of your God.

What would it look like if we really did support infants and children with a mind to serving their long-term interests? What if we cared about the loss they suffer when faced with parental abandonment. What if we refused to allow them to be bought and sold like chattel for the selfish gratification and status of adults? Do we have the courage to stand up to our own selfish desires in order to protect God’s children?

Malachi promised the day would come when Elijah would be sent to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I [the Lord] come and smite the earth with a curse.”

The temple is about linking us to our generations, both those who went before us and those who will come after us. It is a place for allowing each child to be linked to the family of mankind, to know their place in that human family.

Let us turn our hearts to God’s children, born or unborn. Despite the modern reformation of family occurring around us, let us be islands of solidity, where children are not prevented any chance of connection with one or both biological parents merely to fulfill selfish adult desires.

[This post is not just about single mothers getting inseminated or same gender couples creating a child. There are many ways that even seemingly “traditional” adults can treat children like chattel rather than respecting the right and need of a child to be raised in the best of circumstances, with a father and mother, ideally the biological father and mother of the child.]

P.S. – Given the delightful level of response this post has already gotten and the fact that I will not be around today to curate the comment chain, I am putting this on moderation. I will approve comments as I have time. Comments merely calling this post bilge and nonsense will not be approved, so do put something substantive and factual in your response. I have also done a few minor edits to clarify what Lucinda and I were trying to express.

Notes:

  1. Jane Galt was a pseudonym. Given that she has removed her 2005 article from the Internet, I’ll not be the one to out her identity.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

53 thoughts on “Children of God or Chattel of Men?

  1. Bilge. If this is not just sloppy writing it is a disgusting insult to people who adopt or have to use artificial means to have a child. By including the paragraph that asserts it is better to remain childless than disturb the child’s blood line, it makes me think of a Mormon [version of] William Shockley, a Nobel Prize winning Physicist and crackpot eugenicist, His proposal was to keep bloodlines strong by paying blacks not to have children.

    [Meg here: Shockley wasn’t Mormon. Above edit based on clarifying correspondence with Stan Beale of 5/10.]

  2. Who is Jane Galt?

    I see the problems discussed in this post. With change comes new, inherent risks and problems. When the first skyscrapers were built, they had the new problems of getting clean water up to the top floors, and dirty water out. They had to figure out new methods for ventilation, and places for kids to play, etc.

    I think there is equal room for providing for the child’s needs AND the parents’ wants (in wanting a child). That said, change can and does affect society. In the great film/play Fiddler on the Roof, we see Tevye struggle with Traditions that change rapidly in life. Marriage for him meant meeting his wife Goldie on their wedding day, and neither was certain about their love for the other until 25 years later – and then only when changes to traditions opened the door to ask.

    I agree that children need and deserve two parents. I agree that in a perfect world, those will be the natural parents. However, adoption has gone on since the beginning. It has always been part of the tradition to adopt those kids who do not have biological parents available. Joseph and Emma Smith adopted twins, when their mother died at childbirth. This was long before any drastic changes to marriage ever took affect.

    Having been a foster parent for many years, and at one time seeking to adopt, I realized I was wanting to adopt for both me and the child. I knew there were kids out there without biological parents, or without good biological parents.

    Think about Daniel and Megan, 6 and 7 years old. Their father a never-sober-drunk. Their mother moving from one man to the next. When we became their foster parents, they gobbled down any and all food, because they were used to not having food for days, and knew they had to eat whenever it was available. Imagine the look on their faces when my wife showed them the food storage room. Their older 16 year old sister was in specialized foster care, because her mother had “lent” her out to her boyfriends since she was 10 years of age, and at 16 was addicted to sex (even hitting on foster fathers and siblings).

    Such kids, though their biological parents are alive, needed real parents. My brother adopted two boys, whose birth mothers were young and unwedded. The oldest of the boys is now serving a mission and doing great in life, because the adoptive parents nurtured and filled the greatest needs – which did not necessarily include biology. As it is, while many adopted kids want to know their biology, not all do. Many are very happy without finding out anything about the unwed couple who made a baby out of lust, rather than love.

    So, while I agree with the concerns of Jane Galt about changing traditions creates major changes in culture, I also see that adoption can help fill the need that many children have of requiring nurturing parents.

  3. This is the most convoluted nonsense, I have read in some time. No wonder the author referenced removed her ridiculous thesis from the web. She must be absolutely embarrassed by the nonsense she wrote a decade ago.

    This is the nonsensical crap that your side has to resort to in arguing against gay parenting. Thankfully, none of it matters. Why your ilk keeps screeching, the average person is carrying on with their lives and families, including gay men and women.

    Conservatism is dead. Look at your Republican candidate for confirmation. The most vulgar public figure is now the GOP standard bearer. And you guys are to blame for it. People get sick and tired of busy bodies constantly telling then how wretched they are.

  4. Out of curiosity, why would it be necessary to resort to technological means to create a child? I would argue that it is possible, but possible doesn’t mean necessary.

    Julia Murdock wrote a letter to her father asking why he gave her up. This was not necessarily because she was unhappy with having been raised by Emma. But she did resent not being kept by her father. Failing that, she resented being kept from knowledge of her actual parentage. It probably didn’t help that she was taunted as a ten-year-old about being a bastard Joseph had presumably sired on some other woman.

  5. I would be happy to be told of any study that demonstrates that children taken from their biological parents do better.

    The question is not whether a child in a terribly unsuitable home does better by being removed and put into a stable home. It is whether children who have intentionally been created in a situation where they don’t have access to one or both parents do as well or better than children born into two-parent situations.

    If there are actual results that bolster the idea that boutique children do just fine, then I’m willing to reconsider. However everything that I have seen suggests that it is hoped that the massive disparity can be overcome, rather than demonstrated that there is no disparity.

  6. More mentally ill people are US prisons than are in hospitals where they can be treated. Perhaps the numbers of men in jail is responsible for the high percentage of single mothers. There could be many other factors that have helped change society.

  7. Hi Yvonne,

    In this I believe you’re responding to the Galt discussion about 70% of black children being illegitimate. You can go to her archived essay and see if any of the comments respond to that amazing claim. We’re not saying that these children didn’t have their fathers around, we’re saying that they were born without benefit of any marriage. I would argue that far fewer than 70% were actually being raised without any involvement of the biological father.

  8. Adoption is a noble thing. But adoptive parents need to remember, especially now when they can easily surround themselves with people who praise whatever they do, that adopted children need healing. Don’t dismiss their struggles by pulling the “lust vs. love” card. Adoption is a first-rate thing for an adult to do, but it is a second-rate experience for a child. Of course there are many totally unfit biological parents, but adoptive parents will have better results if they recognize the pain of rejection suffered by the adoptive children. Part of what makes adoptive parenting so noble is the understanding that there is a profound handicap that must be overcome. Part of that is that adoptive parents experience pain when children yearn for their biological parents, which leads to a temptation to claim superiority over their biological parents (and by logical extension, superiority over ALL biological parents.) Resisting this temptation will be a key to success.

  9. On a spirit of respect, I will say I respectfully disagree with a lot of this post and ask a question about the degree of researched you have done on adoptions, particualry open adoptions.

    I once worked with troubled teens who had a myriad of baggage and problems, but some of them were labeled with abandoment issues. It seemed to me if the child was adopted, there were automatically tagged with abandoment issues. Because of this, we had a few classes on the issues closed adoptions can cause, some of which was weakly described above.

    But there was a lot of proof even then about the effectiveness of open adoptions, and this seems to be a part you have either not considered or just left out. Open adoptions can range quite a bit. I know of one family whose birth mother attends dinner with them every Sunday evening, and often gets one on one time with her biological, yet adopted daughter. Another family took great pains to make sure the adoptive child would know his parents. They (the adoptive couple) were invited to the birth, where the event was beautifully photographed, the last picture being that of a loving birth mother kissing her baby and then softly smiling as she gave her baby to the adoptive mother, who then not hugged the just the newborn to her chest, but also the birth mother, weeping. Another open adoption I know of has far less contact with the biological mother (it being the birth mother’s choice), however, the child knows she was adopted and has known for as long as she could remember (hers was a customized book they read to her to as a baby and child that told her of her biological mother and the choice she made and why). A picture of her biological mother is in her room, as well as a letter written and other birthday cards and mementos sent through the years. But it’s not even limited to open adoptions. Even those who chose closed adoptions for one reason or another can greatly reduce the issues that may arise later in life by having and open communication with the child about their biological parents and the choices made. Efforts like these are huge for the adopted child and is a great help in answering the questions of ‘where did I come from’ and ‘was I not wanted?’ I believe this is a far better option to proceed with, than outlawing adoption all together in the best interest of the child.

    My issue with this article is that it is painting with a very broad and generalized brush and making a lot of erroneous judgments while doing so. I understand the overall jist this article is trying to get too, but in my opinion, it fell quite a bit short.

    Hopefully this is considerate enough to get past moderation.

  10. Hi Haybay,

    Nothing in this post advocates making adoption illegal.

    You refer to individual cases. The beautiful outcomes you were describing are clearly being described from the standpoint of the parents involved.

    What we are looking for are studies that demonstrate the warm and fuzzy that you’re talking about. The studies I am aware of do not bear out that children who were adopted do as well as children who are born into intact traditional families.

    The case Lucinda is making is that adoption is something that can help heal children who are in terrible situations. However it shouldn’t be the default going in position.

  11. This post makes some pretty audacious assertions, especially when taking on adoption as inferior and problematic. Maybe adoptions are inferior in some ways, but behind every adoption are extremely strong emotions of love, loss, and longing, and you are sure to stir up a hornet’s nest when getting into these issues…so tread carefully!

    Fundamentally, I think what the authors are trying to suggest is that legislation can have unforeseen negative consequences. This is of course true. But in these examples, it is not actually the legislation that drives the change. Rather legislation merely reflects democratic and technological trends in society. Legislation can exist as a dam to try and stop those trends (like legislation against same-sex marriage), but the legislation, or lack thereof is not the fundamental problem. The “problem,” if that’s what you want to call it, is the trend.

    The trend of parents to consider children a “right” is driven by a number of powerful factors, factors beyond anyone’s control. Chief among them is the fact that having children (for the first time in human history,) is an actual choice because of birth control. Traditionally, children were simply a product of sex, whether wanted or unwanted. Additionally, having children today represents an enormous sacrifice, exceeding that of previous generations. To “want a child” today is NOT a selfish thing. It is unselfish in the extreme. Those children are given privileges, expectations, and opportunities beyond the wildest dreams of the children of our ancestors. They are given FAR more attention, education, and affection than children of previous generations. For this enormous commitment of sacrifice and love, OF COURSE today’s parents expect to have the RIGHT to have a child. They have the right to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of dollars, thousands of sleepless nights, thousands of tears, hugs and kisses. Suggesting that they are somehow unworthy of a child, a child who might just as well be born to some drug-addicted single mother, completely incapable of raising it, is, as I said above, audacious in the extreme.

  12. Nate,

    You rather perfectly exemplify the prideful ownership of a child perspective that makes Lucinda so upset.

    For what it’s worth, my daughter’s cousin was in fact born to a drug addict. That is how she ended up in a foster home in her preteen years, and then was adopted by the family who had been her foster family.

    I’m so pleased for my daughter’s cousin, that she was able to find a good family. I’m also rather pleased that she did know who her mother was and who her biological father was, and was able to gain access to the stories of the many generations of ancestors that she had, in addition no doubt to her adopted grandparents and ancestors.

    My daughter’s cousin exemplifies the case where a child is not well served by the parents that biology provided. However that does not follow that demand for adopted children or created children is always an unselfish demand.

  13. Meg:
    Great, important, and now we discover, brave post.
    Though how it got brave to state what has been the main organizing principle of society since there was such a thing is troubling.
    Thank you for this and the link. I agree with you: we all might want to ask what is good for the child? But who cares! Children lack power or money and so have no voices.
    Don’t worry, yet a few years and children will become rare. Like in Europe. Something for religious zealots.
    Another shock is to realize just how difficult it is getting to even discuss this critical matter judging by the comments thus far. Yikes.
    I used to find it puzzling in the Book of Mormon / latter Heleman – early 3 Nephi how rapidly the people went from righteous to wicked (are we still permitted to use that word?) wondering: “do things really shift that fast?”…
    Yup. They do.
    Now marriage traditionalists – like, may I remind you, the sitting President of the United States was when he entered office, not that long ago – are Enemies of the State \ insane \ dangerous\ deranged. Et cetera.
    It makes one wonder for how long the “right” to naturally engender children and then be granted the right to rear them by virtue of that biological relationship will remain. After all: How is that fair? And how can society allow regressive nuts like me to rear children?
    Whew! Good thing that won’t ever happen.
    Just like all of the things that have happened will never happen…
    Enjoy your family while the State, and your fellow Right Thinking Citizens, will permit it.
    Turns out the prophets are right.

  14. “Nothing in this post advocates making adoption illegal.”

    Yes, I agree the word outlawed I chose was a bit of a stretch. How about deeply discourage?

    “You refer to individual cases. The beautiful outcomes you were describing are clearly being described from the standpoint of the parents involved.”

    Which parents do you speak of, the biological or the adoptive? I am not sure what it matters, but in this case it is both, and then some. The first story given by the birth mother. The second was the words from the adopted child themselves, a cousin of mine, and the third was from adoptive parents. Does that change anything?

    “What we are looking for are studies that demonstrate the warm and fuzzy that you’re talking about. The studies I am aware of do not bear out that children who were adopted do as well as children who are born into intact traditional families.”

    This entire paragraph is puzzling to me. The last line leads me to believe you are researching adopted children that are taken from traditional intact families. Of all the adoptions I know of, they are placed because the birth parents (usually birth mother acting alone) believe a 2 parent home can give them better hope than they herself/themselves. Having children born into intact traditional families is no doubt the ideal. However, the ideal is not reality, and from where I stand adoption offers children who wouldn’t have had the opportunity at a stable environment to have one….which goes back to what you were already trying to say: children have the right I have stable traditional families. I’m just confused where adoption mis-steps this. Furthermore, what, when, and where are you researching said adoptive stories. How long ago? Open or closed? LDS family services or private practice? International or national? 3rd world in-house adoptions? All these different types of adoptions have potential to give you very different outcomes of said adoption.

    “The case Lucinda is making is that adoption is something that can help heal children who are in terrible situations. However it shouldn’t be the default going in position.”

    I have to wonder how this is decided. Is a expectant mother who has a history of drug abuse and an alcoholic absent father considered a terrible situation and they should therefore not have the ability to raise baby in question? Or do we give the bio parents a try, and then when things get hairy we step in? The former is a very blurry and gray line indeed and I can’t hardly believe that is what you mean, and the latter is usually too little to late, despite that is what the foster care system is now. Children in those types of atmospheres for too long bear the scars that are thrust upon them long into adulthood.

    Again, I see what I think you are trying to say. That children deserve and have a right to a two parent home ideally conceived within their committed marriage. But I disagree that if a couple biologically can not have a child, they should not look into adoption. Frankly, I am just puzzled at this entire article. I don’t quite understand what you are trying to say as it seems to conflict with something else you had said earlier.

    But that’s just my two cents. Or
    maybe three.

  15. Hi HayBay,

    There are degrees and degrees.

    Creating a child expressly to wrest them from one biological parent is the original case that evoked Lucinda’s anger. This was exemplified by mothers who had gotten themselves inseminated in order to have a baby outside of traditional heterosexual marriage. At least it seems that at least some of the inseminated mothers may not have sought insemimation merely because their husband was unable to engender a child.

    Another degree is when parents go to moderately extreme lengths to engender a child, even if this presents a priori health challenges for the child. This is completely legal. Yet Lucinda and I suggest this is on a continuum that warrants reflection.

    Even adoption, the matter you are focusing, can be problematic. The desire to provide a disadvantaged child a home has led to numerous adoptions by a parent or parents who would never have been able to even theoretically produce a child, lacking either the two it typically takes to tango or lacking the heterosexual two-ness required for unassisted conception.

    Lucinda points out that even in the case of heterosexual couples who adopt, there can be errors in how the adoptive parents handle the matter. I’ll let her comment speak for itself.

    The reason I wanted Lucinda to write something up was because I felt she was making a valuable point about how marriage and having children has been turned into a celebration of the adult’s fantasy, rather than remaining grounded in the best option for the child.

  16. Meg,
    The biggest problem that I have with this article was the statement “It may be coincidental, but this adopted woman ended up being raped two times in her youth. It seems reasonable to suspect that part of the vulnerability her attackers sensed could have been related to her sense that she was not a welcome child in her family, despite initially being “wanted.”
    I just have not heard of any studies that would support such a scenario, even though Lucinda did say that “it may be coincidental.”
    I do agree with the idea of untended consequences brought about by so many legislative fiats, but I do not know if the legislative acts were the product or the instigator.

    Glenn

  17. “You rather perfectly exemplify the prideful ownership of a child perspective that makes Lucinda so upset.”

    I’m not talking about ownership. I agree with you regarding ownership. Children are not commodities. We are all individuals and ultimately, we belong to no one but ourselves and God.

    But you are not posting about ownership. You are posting about the “right” to create a child through artificial means, or to use artificial means to remove a child from their biological parents and give them to adoptive parents. This is not about possession, it is about creation. Do we have the right to “create” a child or a family through artificial means?

    Milan Kundera wrote: “Having a child is to show an absolute accord with mankind. If I have a child, it’s as though I’m saying: I was born and have tasted life and declare it so good that is merits being duplicated.”

    Someone who CHOOSES to have a child (rather than it just happening), is engaging in a very sacred accord with the universe, declaring that life is good and worth replicating, just as God saw that “it was good,” after He had created life. When we CHOOSE to create a child, we know that the child will come into a world full of problems. But IN SPITE of those problems, we have declared, along with God, that “it is good.” These problems are inevitable, whether adopted, biological, or in-vitro. All children will have them.

    IVF or adoptive parents are not cowards who balk at the idea of raising a child who might have to deal with the scary experience of having an extra set of biological parents. They know that there are far worse terrors that we all have to face in life. We have looked at those terrors and declared, along with God, that life is STILL worth it. Creation is STILL worth it.

    You can call the desire to have children “selfish,” but this desire is the the very essence of all life on the planet, and it is celebrated incessantly in General Conference. Well over 5 million babies have been born through IVF, an army of souls born in the fire of maternal desire and desperation, souls that will be loved and cared for all the more deeply and passionately BECAUSE of the extreme sacrifices that were made to bring them into the world.

  18. Hi Glenn,

    I advise you read the original essay – it is clear the legislation caused the societal changes, not the converse.

    I imagine there are studies that specifically look at the rate of crime against various populations. I’m not certain rape has definitively been shown to be perpetrated at a higher rate against adoptees, but it is shocking how much higher bad statistics are for children who are not raised by their own biological parents. Obviously in one particular instance we can’t know all the factors, hence the use of subjunctive.

  19. Hi Nate,

    I thought I replied to this, but I don’t see it. You’re glowing adulation of the IVF method of producing children doesn’t address the abuse documented in the article that Lucinda originally cited.

    Can you not admit that gifting your children with a father that has not been vetted by anything close to rigorous methods may not be a good idea?

  20. The “abuse” you document (an extreme outlier in an industry that has performed over 5 million IVFs) doesn’t really seem to be the fundamental question you are asking, which seems to be: “is it good to have a child or a family through artificial means, given the problems that arise when children are not raised by their biological parents?”

    My answer to your fundamental question is “yes, it IS good to give parents the opportunity to create children through artificial means, IN SPITE of the drawbacks.”

    In answer to the other question, of course egg and sperm donors should be properly vetted, as the are in almost all cases.

  21. Hi Nate,

    What is your basis for proclaiming the documented cases minor, as sperm donors are typically not known?

    I hate to bring up the doctor who, as it turned out, had donated his own sperm for all his patients requiring donor sperm. The other cases are merely of unknown quality and ethics, not known to be free from question. Unless you have insider information?

  22. Another Pandora’s box in the case of IVF is what happens to the egg donors. If it is the woman who wishes to become pregnant, then perhaps she is willing to face the risk. But there are indications that there are risks of very negative outcomes for the women who undergo the medical procedures related to donating eggs. I can’t recall off the top of my head if it is merely future infertility or if it is increased risk of certain strange cancers. In any case, the industry is sufficiently unregulated that these women’s plight isn’t being adequately addressed.

    Because a prospective parent wants and has money, they can pay for procedures never knowing what price will be paid by either their infant or the other humans that contributed genetic material. I don’t see how that is wholly different from the slavery of a prior age.

  23. Meg & Lucinda,

    The number of people who misinterpreted your piece, even Ram, suggests that you did not write it carefully enough so as to avoid misinterpretation.
    Perhaps it’s a case where people assumed you meant “X” because while you said Y, you didn’t disclaim X, and in their mind, saying Y implies X.

    I think your critics are seeing the issue as adopting, versus not adopting and thereby leaving the kids in foster care. I understood you to state the issue as being: adopting versus not making babies that will need to be adopted out in the first place. Ie, you failed to state or correctly define the choice/dichotomy/options, and readers misinterpreted the either-or’s and came up with their own.

    (More than once, I did an online experiment in discussions of abortions in which I avoided repeating the shibboleths of both sides. Both sides then assumed I was on the opposite side merely because of what I failed to say, not because of what I did say.)

    Similarly, my obese friends wrongly suppose, at first, that when I tell them “don’t diet”, it means that I don’t want them to lose weight. Their false dichotomy is “diet versus eating their ‘normal’ 3500 calories/day.” They don’t realize that somewhere in between a punishing-style “diet” and 3500 cal/day, there is a sensible and healthy long-term eating lifestyle in which a “new normal” can be defined around 1800 to 2200 calories/day.

    I think you just didn’t clearly define what you want to see as a new normal, or as the replacement for the bad/less-optimum types of adoptions that you decry.

    This is a topic, like abortion, where you can’t rely on people to understand what you _said_ or propose unless you also clarify what you are _not proposing_, and actively disclaim the false assumptions you see coming.

  24. The initial post was in response to an article about a sperm donor who was far from what was advertised to women wanting a child. At least one of the respondents indicated the real elephant in the room. Same-sex couples must have a donor of either egg or sperm in order to have children. Nowadays it is far from politically correct to question if a child is better off within the traditional family of male father and female mother. The same applies to adoptions as to other ways of obtaining children.
    Now that parenthood is seen as a right instead of an obligation, we see the idea becoming more prevalent that children must justify their existence. So far this is manifested mostly in abortions performed because children are not as perfect as desired. When a child is conceived or planned as part of a selfish scheme they can never be what the putative parent really wants. There is no way that an article addressing these concerns could be written without a howl of outrage from the newly entitled.

  25. https://anonymousus.org is a good link for stories from the perspective of the children of sperm and egg donation.

    I guess I should have made it more clear. I think adoption is a noble pursuit, even when it is because of a desire to become a parent. I would like people be more reliably successful adoptive parents, and my idea is that maybe it’s better to recognize an inherent deficiency in the relationship rather than assuming you can just claim there-is-no-deficiency-end-of-story. The only reason I even talk about adoption is because it seems to be the starting point of wantedness vs. biology, and this has become a problem because of the loss of marriage as an institution oriented toward procreation.

    I know the post is not the most cohesive or careful. Meg and I are both very busy, and of diverse interests, and we just sort of came up with this in a sort of here and there fashion. And so it’s not designed to be persuasive per se, but rather just something to think about.

    Regarding how things can be changed, I’m pretty sure most people in our post-Christian society will just have to learn the hard way, through personal tragedy, that it would have been better if they had done things more in line with Natural Law. And some may never learn. I do think there are many older people who have done things with regard to procreation more or less correctly, that can look back on their lives with gratitude for wise inheritance that guided them to make good choices when they were young. But from my perspective, that is becoming less frequent.

    I also know that people really don’t like the fact that sex makes babies. It just seems to a lot of people like a really problematic set-up, and I agree. I would argue that most ascendant civilizations figured out how to tame wild sexuality for the good of the resulting children. We are not in that phase of civilization.

    Happily, if individuals are willing to question the omnipresent snarling contempt for our heritage, they may see some keys to success for their own lives, even if it doesn’t particularly affect the wider society. I have found this to be true for my family.

  26. Adoptive parents should remember that it’s better to speak about birth parents with compassion. Getting sneering about “drug-addicts” and other ways of portraying the parents of a child as the scum of the earth, while gaining quick points AGAINST the birth parents, will spell long-term trouble for your relationship with the child. I’ve seen adoptive parents who seemed to make it a rule to speak respectfully and compassionately about the birth parents, and I really admire that, and I think it gives them a greater chance of being able to respect the child of those people. You can communicate to people what the circumstances were that justified the separation of a child from its parents in a way the demonstrates compassion. I know this can be extremely hard, especially when legal battles rage and the biological parent is ripping apart the peace of the child, sometimes for the worst of reasons. But try to take the high road, DON’T go on and on about how they were conceived in (sneer) “lust”, or they “just happened”. Learn to communicate the needed facts in an honorable way that preserves the human dignity of the parents. This is a good idea for everyone, but it is a necessity for the adoptive parent who wishes to build an enduring relationship with a child.

  27. Lucinda, your point about respect for biological parents is well taken. It is true that adoptive parents can feel possessive of their children, as many parents do in our helicopter-parenting culture. A biological parent of an adopted child is unsullied by this sense of entitlement. They long to be reunited with their biological child, not to “own” that child, but to begin a relationship of mutual respect and self-discovery. That is a beautiful thing and should never be hampered by an adopted parent’s possessiveness.

    Regarding the Anonymous US blog, and various horror stories of IVF kids, it is of course understandable that having anonymous egg and sperm donors may present some IVF children with an existential crisis and in any new technology, there is the possibility of various technological problems. If normal kids go through stages of resenting and blaming their parents, surely IVF kids will go through similar acts to an even greater extent. I’m sure we will be hearing more about this as the IVF generation finally starts coming of age. And we can be sure that there will be swarms of hungry lawyers eager to devour any fertility clinic for any kind of malpractice. So I think you are right that the pros and cons of IVF, adoption, and various other “family creation” methods need to be discussed.

    You are right that your post is “not the most cohesive or careful” which isn’t a credit to your arguments, as valid as they may be. You can talk about the drawbacks of IVF or adoption without attacking the desire of infertile women to have children as “selfish.” You can talk about the drawbacks of IVF without resorting to scare stories which are unrepresentative of the vast majority of IVF experiences. If IVF presents children with greater risks, then what ARE those risks, and what data do we have that gives us a clearer picture of those risks, other than scary anecdotes?

    And upon what theological evidence do you base your claim that “it is better that a child should never have been born” than have to be born through IVF or adoption? Today there are sometimes “wrongful life” lawsuits, where children sue their parents or patients sue doctors for allowing them to survive with such severe disabilities that they claim “it is better that I never should have been born, than that I live with this disability.” Does a life without biological parents constitute “wrongful life?” Would Jesus say, along with someone who denies the Holy Ghost, that “they should never have been born”? These are the questions that your post asks and that you need to carefully unpack.

  28. Hi Nate,

    I assume Lucinda will respond at some point.

    In the mean time, let me address some issues.

    First, theologically, we believe each individual is an eternal being, elevated from mere intelligence (Abraham 3:18) to spiritual life by God the Father. As parents, we offer that individual mortal life. This Mormon belief is distinctly different from all other religious concepts, where many simply believe we bring the child into existence by the fact of reproduction or at worse are giving an spirit a temporary sojourn before their next reincarnation. In Mormonism, birth is the single mortal incarnation being offered to that soul, problems with which may be rectified in the resurrection. To create an incarnation and force thereby a spirit to reside in a mortal form that is reft of either or both biological mother and father is problematic. Whether folks will bother suing is a question for the future lawyers of the world to determine.

    Second, IVF donation for a man is a simple matter with no more personal risk than endured by any horny person willing to stimulate themselves. However for a woman IVF donation is a significant medical process with both significant known risks and unstudied and unknown risks.

    What Judeo-Christian theology and Jesus say about illicit sex is relatively damning, and this has to do with merely creating a body for a spirit when the man and woman involved are sufficiently normal and fertile for conception to occur. In old Scots culture, if two people produced a kid, they were married by definition. Marriage, as it was, between a rapist and his victim was not even the lowest form of marriage – that distinction fell to “marriage” between two insane individuals due to their production of a child. This was from before the time that the concept of “bastard” as we now know it had emerged.

    IVF and even adoption result in ethical issues for the resultant children, who will not know with whom they may safely enter into procreative activity, assuming they wish to avoid the possibility of breeding with a close relative or parent.

    The concern Lucinda and I raised about adoption is unusual to hear in LDS culture, as adoption has long been seen as a completely valid way to bring additional individuals into a family. This is highlighted by the way SUP and DUP will accept members who are adopted into families descended from pioneers. As Rameumptom points out, adoption is a great way for a child to obtain stability. And this can even occur well before the negative impact on a child has been demonstrated.

    However as the article on the situation with Ethiopian adoptees illustrates,* adoption can have a very dark side, where children are taken from loving, if poor, parents and then traded between adoptive parents who don’t find the child to be sufficiently perfect for their tastes. This, in my opinion, descends below human trafficking.

    This all brings us back to the fundamental assertion Lucinda made, that I felt was worth posting, that it is the right of a child to have a family that should dominate, rather than the desire of a potential parent to possess a child.

    * A recent NPR story highlighted the experience of a Chinese woman who went back to the city of her birth to find her biological relatives. It turns out that the dozens of families who made contact (none of whom were hers) longed for their child. It was a matter that they were too poor to retain that extra child (almost always a girl), and given the demand for adoptive babies had offered the child up to be sent overseas.

  29. There may be some valid points being made by Meg and Lucinda, however, the post is rather unclear. Conversations that involve infertility, parenthood, adoption, and families in general, are complicated and it is difficult to have them without causing hurt and pain. This can be true within the context of Mormonism where becoming a parent and having a family is so central to the Mormon experience. I understand what it is like to be very busy and have diverse responsibilities that make writing difficult. In the case of this post, it seems it would be a good plan to rework the thoughts that are being presented and maybe during a week that is not so close to Mother’s Day.

    In my view, more of Meg and Lucinda’s thoughts came through in the comments section than in the blog post. I am a crisis counselor and I have seen many of the heartaches that Meg eludes to in relation to infertility, adoption, foster parenting, and disability. It does everyone a disservice to not give these types of controversial topics gentle attention when they are written about. Many of the generalizations made put up red flags for me. I will concede that perhaps I didn’t understand the post. I found it difficult to follow. It seemed to contain painful assertions about several groups of people. I agree with Nate that these things need to be carefully unpacked.

  30. Meg writes: “To create an incarnation and force thereby a spirit to reside in a mortal form that is reft of either or both biological mother and father is problematic.”

    It may be “problematic” but I see nothing theologically that forbids it. It is not the same as illicit sex, and I don’t see the comparison. Adoption is a gospel principal. There are a number of extraordinary attempts by infertile women in the Bible and church history to procure children, including Sarah and Rachel using mandrakes and maidservants. There is even an account I remember reading on FAIR of a prophetically authorised temporary polygamous marriage of a man to his wife’s sister for the sole purpose of producing a child. Not to mention the strange account of Jesus’ birth. These may be “problematic” on some level, and present unique challenges to both children and parents, but I can think of no precedence of theological condemnation for the various creative ways faithful infertile women have tried to have children. Infertile women would not adopt or undergo IVF procedures if they didn’t have to. They know these things are “problematic” and less than ideal. But just because something is less than ideal, it does not follow that one shouldn’t pursue it. As I said earlier, choosing to have a child is a sacred pact a woman makes with life, declaring, with God, that “it is good,” worthy of being replicated, even if there are things in that life that are “problematic.”

    A child who is adopted faces a certain disadvantage, granted. But an adopted child is also frequently loved, sacrificed, educated, and cared for by infertile parents in an extraordinary manner, far exceeding the amount of care and attention our ancestors gave their natural born children. This amounts to a distinct advantage. To calculate the risk adoption poses on a child, one must take into account both the disadvantage of the adoption itself, AND the advantage of being raised by an extraordinarily loving and sacrificing family. To focus only on the negative, without taking into account the positive factors will result in a skewed understanding of the situation.

    I’m bothering you too much with this I know. But just so you are aware, I’ve got a lot of skin in this game. My wife and I have had 5 failed IVFs, the last was a miscarriage, and are in the middle of a 6th with a donor egg. We’ve been on adoption waiting lists for a number of years as well. The pain of all this failure has been extraordinary. This pain is compounded by the knowledge that some of our more conservative Mormon friends and family disapprove of our decisions, even accounting our repeated failures as a sign from God that what we are doing is somehow wrong. But my wife and I feel we are doing the right thing.

  31. Thank you for your comment.

    Again, Lucinda’s key point is that marriage used to be about providing the children stability and access to both parents. I’m sure she could provide more depth about the history of marriage. I have provided my insights.

    Now that marriage is about celebrating adult companionship, the production of children is becoming about satisfying the desires of those adults, rather than about protecting the rights of the children.

    Unfortunately, we’ve been on a glide path of abusing child rights for many decades, so a discussion of this topic will cause pain. On the one hand there are undoubtedly mothers and fathers reading this today who are pissed and haven’t bothered posting (given that comments are being moderated). However there are also the many women who yearn for children and know that children are theoretically possible despite lack of spouse or lack of fertility. Yet these women know that an unwed mother can’t be sealed to her children (adopted or otherwise) and so they have not taken advantage of what society offers them.

    So for these women, who have foregone the chances for motherhood that society offers, I give them our thoughts on why this may be OK in God’s sight. The God we believe in will give every blessing to those who follow Him, even if they don’t receive those blessings in this life.

  32. You guys carry on your debate, but I want to respond to the very first comment in which it was asserted that William Shockley was a Mormon. I can find exactly zero evidence for that. Not even a rumor (unless you count the comment itself).

  33. Hi Nate,

    I understand why this strikes so close to home for you.

    The problem with me (and Lucinda) is that we are ultimately responding to the data across populations with regards to this. I understand your personal pain. But your personal pain and the integrity you and your wife would no doubt bring to raising a child do not eliminate the ethical challenges the world at large is facing with respect to these issues.

    The current discourse regarding adoption is resulting in loving families giving up children, as I cited with respect to China and Ethiopia. Some of these adopted children are being rehomed by adoptive parents that are clearly not as loving as you and your wife. Though many children are greatly loved in adoptive homes, the data shows that this is not the universal fate of adopted children.

    I will never gain say whatever honest guidance you believe you are receiving from God. God has sent me on some strange adventures, though they eventually led to good. But as occurred for me in my unusual journeys, you will not receive the support you might desire from the rank and file when the path is outside of the proven path. Again, if God is leading you in this direction, follow Him.

    In the mean time, Lucinda and I will be true to the mathematical and engineering heritage our biological parents respectively gifted us, and continue to point out the statistical problems with the shift in how children are considered in our day.

  34. Good catch. Fascinating fellow, Shockley. Died estranged from all members of his family other than his second wife. He was a sperm donor, believing that his (obviously highly intelligent) genetic material would benefit humanity.

    I am glad there was no widespread implementation of his suggestion that folks with IQs less than 100 be sterilized. I hadn’t known that his analysis of the likely number of casualties the US would have to inflict on Japan before they could expect surrender. This analysis apparently led to the decision to use the atom bomb on Japan to prevent the expected number of US (and Japanese) casualties that would have resulted from conventional warfare.

  35. Theologically speaking, adoption is the principle by which we all are saved and brought into the family of God, by becoming children of Christ. At first glance, it would seem that adoption is the highest principle, theologically. But the reason Christ has the power to save us is because of his begottenness, as the true Son of God, which is why the virgin birth is so important. Our adoption into the family of Christ is an emulation of His begotten relationship to the Father.
    My purpose for the post was more to explore the probable roots of our society-wide attitude of entitlement to children (and marriage). I have a very pragmatic view of sexual morality, which I lay out in Paradoxical Patriarchy. Basically, anything that disrupts a man’s fragile instinctive connection to his children is a problem for the whole society. Third party-reproduction does this in the same way adultery does. If another man has access to a woman, a man’s instinctive confidence in his paternity goes way down. I know there are a good number of men with the character to take on the responsibility for children that are not their own, but for the majority of men, it takes paternal confidence for them to reliably invest as a full father of the child. When a child has no instinctively confident father, that’s a terrible loss for a child. Yes there are men who will deliberately evade responsibility even if they are sure the child is theirs. And on the other end, there are men who seem incapable of trusting any women could be faithful to them, meaning they will always have an instinctive barrier to connecting with their children. But I’m convinced most men have the ability to instinctively and rationally connect with their children, given the right community-wide sexual mores. From my perspective, the problem with third-party assisted reproduction would be the same problem with a child conceived by adultery; both men will lack biological certainty, and the child will be born without the benefit of an instinctively invested father.

    And this is not just theoretical. The occurrences of incorrect sperm in fertility clinics is decidedly a thing, either through the kind of deception referenced in the OP, or by outright malpractice, such as what happened by the clinician Thomas Lippert at an IVF clinic in Utah. He swapped his personal material with the approved IVF father’s.

    Women tend not to get the scoring game men play because women can’t comprehend why men would feel so reproductively insecure. Biological uncertainty is not even on the radar for women. Feminism has completely disrupted traditions that made men feel confident in investing in their children, and that’s not a good thing from the perspective of children who naturally yearn for paternal acknowledgement and involvement.

    I understand that people will feel angry at the comparison of Third-party reproduction to adultery. I would say this is evidence of the kind of mentality that concerns me, that what matters is how a grown-up feels. What would be wrong with consensual adultery if the only thing that mattered were the feelings and intents of the adults involved? I believe that commandments have reasons, and that it’s a worthy pursuit to try and discern those reasons.

    I truly believe that many Christian men are up to the challenge of caring for the fatherless, but encouraging fatherlessness generally is a bad thing. Championing assisted reproduction and adoptive entitlement does do damage to the ideal because people tend to get defensive and the go to weapon in such battles is that being able to have (sneer) SEX is no qualifier for parenthood. That has occurred in this comment thread.

    It is better to strengthen the connection between procreation and sex and marriage.

  36. To follow up on Lucinda’s point, male mammals are notorious for absconding with the female and killing all her previous offspring by other males. I know this happens with cats (big and small). Looking back in history, we see this kind of behavior for human males (e.g., the way King Cnut sent Queen Emma’s boys to be murdered circa 1030 AD, the way the English Lord sent his wife’s children with the Mayflower when he learned they had likely been the result of his wife’s extramarital affair).

    There are those who can overcome the natural cat in all of us, and there are others who cannot.

  37. It is frightening to see the number of comments from people who cannot consider an idea without blowing a gasket. I have relatives that have adopted children and relatives who have done in vitro. One relative approached my wife to be an egg donor. She flat refused. Her eggs were dedicated to conception with me to the extent there was to be conception. Ultimately another relative donated the eggs. It’s a fraught situation.

    Another relative adopted an illegitimate child of the adoptive mother’s sister. Overall it has been okay but there have been unusual and challenging family dynamics that are too revealing to post here.

    The ideal family has children conceived by mom and dad who stay together. Yes there are some less than ideal situations and many work out but they are no reason to throw away the ideal.

  38. FWIW, the identity of this “Jane Galt” is not a secret. The Asymmetric Information blog is quite well known, and its author is a popular libertarian writer at Bloomberg View, who has also written for The Atlantic and The Daily Beast. I doubt she has any issues with her name being attached to the essay to which you linked.

  39. I e-mailed her a few weeks ago asking if she would be OK with this piece being reposted. She never replied. That probably reflects the fact that she’s busy and I’m not someone she recognizes. Still, she has removed the article from the web, which reflects something.

  40. Lucinda: if we are adopted into the family of Christ as the ultimate expression of salvation, I don’t see how this discourages humans from applying the same expression on a smaller scale, as a symbol of the greater adoption we all partake in. We are supposed to be “saviours and mount Zion,” doing temple work which involves lots of adoptive sealings. In early church temple work, thousands of members and their dead relatives were given adoption sealings into the families of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other apostles rather than being sealed to their own ancestors. The idea of sealing individual biological families as far back as possible came later, with Wilford Woodruff. And Woodruff’s policy change was less a theological change than a way of trying to streamline what had become a disorganised and unwieldily pattern for temple work. Our more romantic notion of only sealing mortal family units together for all eternity was a cultural construct which came AFTER polygamy (a decidedly unromantic institution), and only grew as the family unit was seen as coming under attack in the mid 20th century. All this is to say that any present ambivalence towards adoption, theologically speaking, can only be said to be a relatively modern phenomenon, reflecting discomfort with the way “the world” may be redefining the traditional family unit. But in LDS church history, the traditional family unit was a much more fluid concept both mortally (as shown with polygamy) and eternally (through rampant adoptive sealings to Joseph Smith.) This fluidity is also in harmony with Jesus’ statement “Who is my father and my mother? They that keep my word.”

    Regarding your ideas of patriarchy, I absolutely agree that the paternity issue explains why society has gravitated towards monogamy and polygamy, and eschewed polyandry, adultery and open relationships. When there is more than one man, paternity comes into question, but not maternity. This mechanical distinction explains a lot about how relationships have evolved over thousands of years.

    But I think your theory about “instinctive paternal confidence” being only possible through sex is a bit off. What could inspire more instinctive paternal confidence, than for a father to spend tens of thousands of dollars to create a child through IVF? Adoptive and IVF fathers are some of the most committed I know, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their commitment FAR surpassed average paternal commitment coming only through sex, given that the commitment is sealed by thousands of dollars, teams of doctors and lawyers, the fruit of years of struggle through infertility. If this is really all about paternal confidence, and you are as practical as you say you are regarding sexual relationships, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t celebrate the additional commitment adopted fathers bring to their children by virtue of their enormous financial and contractual commitment, or somehow perceive it as inferior to a commitment that came about only through sex? And even if there are cases where sperm donors are not who they said they are, what evidence do you have of paternal abandonment or reduced commitment to the child AFTER such a revelation? Do these parents take their kids back to the IVF clinic and say “I want a new one!”? I can understand that they might be upset, and might be tempted to feel resentful of their child. But were are these “deadbeat adoptive dads” you are talking about? “Rehoming” doesn’t count. Adoptive kids, particularly ones adopted older, present enormous challenges, challenges sometimes beyond the ability of a particular family to cope with. Adoption is an act of EXTREME sacrifice and love, but SO extreme, it is beyond the ability of some people to come with. But does this mean that we should just encourage parents to let these children rot away in orphanages until they are old enough to be thrown out on the street without any coping skills? That is the end result of an anti-adoption stance.

    It strikes me that your priorities are a bit off. We are living in a world where less educated classes of people are eschewing marriage and having kids out of wedlock at alarming rates. Fewer and fewer of these single mothers are giving up their children for adoption. International adoption around the world is on a sharp decline, as countries like Russia are influenced by the “rehoming” scare stories you mention and growing international prejudice against American and Western European adoptive couples. So MORE children are born out of wedlock, and LESS people adopt these children. As adoption becomes more difficult, more people turn to IVF.

    Instead of attacking the real problem, you are focused on attacking a small group of HIGHLY committed parents, who make enormous sacrifices for their children and almost always raise them in two-parent families. How is this going to help more children be raised in loving, two-parent homes? How is this going to address the problem of rampant single-parenthood and deadbeat dads?

  41. Hi Nate,

    Your information about adoption in early LDS practice is deprecated. It was certainly done, but it was completely in error. George Q Cannon, who had been adopted to John Taylor, had the sealing annulled in favor of being sealed to his own father. The adoption thing came about in part because of John D Lee, who saw having many people adopted to him as a great way to become the beneficiary of their efforts in this life.

    So what does a father say when his IVF twins come out with one black and one white? This happened. In this particular case it appeared equipment had been reused. Obviously this error ought to be something that more recent procedural safeguards would prevent.

    There is no law preventing anyone who wishes from contracting for creation of a child, with womb, sperm, and egg to be hired or bought as desire dictates.

    The art of the possible, however, has far outstripped the ability for society to make informed judgment. As mentioned, it is unknown what risks egg donors incur. There is non-zero risk that the sperm source is not what was intended or expected. And using the womb of a non-parent is fraught, speaking as one who has personally risked death and seen loved ones approach death in childbirth (albeit for our own biological get).

    I have heard it said, “You can buy anything with money.” And there are many willing to sell for money those things that permit some feats that only modern technology makes possible. Someday I expect to learn from God what He would have advised.

  42. There are others who have written about the adoptive sealings and how they were in error. I’ve personally seen the George Q. Cannon note, since John Taylor is an ancestor and I looked up his records when I was in SLC. In Brian Hales’ book he talks about the adoptive sealings, and discusses a vision/dream Brigham Young had of Joseph, where he asked Joseph about the adoptive thing. Joseph told Brigham (in the dream) that by the spirit the people would be led to truth. After that Brigham doesn’t talk about adoptive sealings. I think the other paper talking about the adoptive sealings was in one of the Persistence of Polygamy books.

    Yes, they happened. In Nauvoo the plurality of them were folks having themselves sealed to John D. Lee, though other Church leaders (such as John Taylor) also allowed men to seal themselves to them by adoption.

    I talk about it (if briefly) in my book as well. Also, if you look at the earliest teachings regarding Celestial marriage, it’s all about literal biological sealing. The first mention of adoption sealing is when Emma asked Jane Manning to be sealed as a daughter to Emma and Joseph.

    A lot of weird things were done in the Nauvoo temple, like having the proxy for a deceased husband become the “for time” husband for the widow, even if she already had a living husband. Given the stress Brigham was under, I don’t fault him for his tactical policies. But these shouldn’t be taken as therefore being the “truer” way, from which a fallen Church has departed.

  43. Meg, just something to consider regarding adoption sealings:

    A sealing is two things: an essential ordinance, and a covenant connection into the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, where we receive as an heir with all the children all the rights and blessings.

    Early saints understood that this priesthood connection to the family of Abraham was the most important aspect of the sealing ordinance. They were uncertain whether their own biological lines would be capable of going back that far. Grafting oneself into the family of Joseph Smith provided this certainty.

    And of course they were right. If in the Millennium, we are able to baptise everyone who ever lived into their correct biological lines, we have to remember that not everyone will accept the gospel. If we generously estimate that half of our family tree will accept the gospel, that leaves vast chunks of our tree “having neither root nor branch.” Maybe your mom, dad and grandparents accept the gospel, but your great grandparents don’t. If this happens, your line is eternally severed as a rootless branch, with no connection to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, thus defeating the whole point of the sealing ordinance to begin with. All your work sealing up your ancestral line according to biology is a waste, because there are severed connections everywhere. You’ll have to begin an extremely tedious effort of adoption, adopting your grandfather to his faithful uncle, and then adopting him to his 2nd cousin, etc., trying to graft various branches into a hodgepodge line that somehow makes it down to connect with the whole.

    The early Saints avoided this by simply grafting everyone into one of only a few “known” lines, which were believed to go back to Abraham in a line of righteousness. In reality, that line probably doesn’t go back unbroken either, but if everyone grafts themselves into a single line, we avoid the chaos of trying to re-adopt everyone to somehow create an unbroken line. It’s not that the early saints fancied sitting around the dinner table with Joseph Smith for all eternity, but that they saw themselves as belonging to his dispensation, the same as in Jacob’s parable of the tame and wild olive branches. In Jacob’s parable, the tame branches have an unbroken heritage going back to the beginning. When the wild branches take over, then there has to be an intervention, a “grafting” or adoption, in order to get the tame branches back into the trees.

    In the end, adoption is essential. By sealing people ONLY to biological ancestors, we are simply postponing the inevitable. Sooner or later, we will have to confront the reality that our biological family tree is filled with vast holes of unfaithful ancestors. The early Saints did this adoption work SOONER, and we will have to do it LATER.

  44. There certainly are men of high character that don’t fuss too much about paternity, and truly reach out to bring children into loving relationships with responsible adults who willingly sacrifice for the well-being of the child. I do know at least one man who has kicked off his wife and IVF child, but he wasn’t LDS. I’m not convinced that world-wide, across populations, sperm donor (IVF) fathers are exceptionally invested in their offspring. I do believe that among LDS people, more men are truly interested in being involved fathers to children, but I would attribute that more to the high quality of character that the gospel encourages in men, particularly men as husbands and fathers.

    So, Nate, if you are talking about the vast majority of IVF families within LDS communities, I will certainly agree that in my experience, these families show tremendous commitment, but I’m not convinced it is higher than equally religiously committed biological families. You may have some resentment about the ease with which some people conceive that is making you assume that children brought about by sex are less valued because of the lack of monetary sacrifice. But that principle is not sound. It has been discussed (maybe here, maybe elsewhere) how the more money spent on a wedding goes along with a higher chance of divorce. I’m interested in this topic, not because I want to make people feel bad, but because I want people to beware of the attitude of entitlement that is genuinely hurting their chances of obtaining and enjoying what they desire. To push back on your idea of expensive intentional parenting being superior, I have not really encountered a strong sentiment of entitlement among sex-conceiving parents. Because sex is relatively low-cost and enjoyable, people don’t tend to resent the cost in sex when it fails to produce (I could be wrong here when it comes to infertile couples. I have been told that it becomes difficult to be interested in sex when infertility is prolonged.)

    Now, I also get that men particularly need ways to show in advance their commitment and willingness to sacrifice. Where pregnancy and childbirth and nurturing an infant are tremendous sacrifices for mothers, fathers need to be shown to be worthy men before they begin engendering children, and in many societies, it comes down to a man being willing to spend money for a family. But money alone is insufficient to guarantee character. This is why the loss of enforceable faithful and life-long marriage in the larger society has been so disastrous. It used to be the way men showed their willingness to forgo other opportunities in life, to show willingness to give of the whole self. But now men are opting out of marriage because it has become relatively meaningless, and actually risks the good of their potential children. No-fault divorce means that men who have done nothing illegal, can have their homes and children forcibly taken from them by the government, and if you resist, you can be locked up. Women are the super-majority divorcers, and frankly, Feminism has destroyed many women’s workable sense of how to make home-life loving and welcoming . Before no-fault divorce, you had to do something actually illegal for the government to take all you own and your children, and the illegal stuff included adultery, physical abuse, etc. But now, men are actually putting children in harm’s way if they are not savvy wife-choosers (and men tend to have difficulty being savvy wife-choosers.)

    The no-fault divorce dynamic which makes men rightly resistant to marriage, combined with the subsidizing of single-motherhood, has meant that many men and women who insist on marriage as the basis for reproduction are being priced out of marriage. Losing the connection between marriage, sex, and reproduction is causing more problems than can be fixed by a small number of committed individuals of high character (particularly now that legal challenges are making adoption an extremely treacherous path for adoptive parents.) IVF does damage to the marriage market because it epitomizes the divorce of sex, marriage, and reproduction. Regaining a reasonable marriage market is the only way to engage a large enough mass of the population to fix the terrible situations most children will be subject to.

    I know the church is not against IVF, and only “strongly discourages” sperm donation, but there is this in the proclamation, “We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” This would seem to preclude 3rd-party involvement.

    Again, I’m not out to attack people. I honestly believe that people will ultimately be happier if they resist the entitlement mentality, in all it’s various forms, but particularly with regard to marriage and children, since these aspects of our lives are crucial. I admit that I have not struggled with infertility, but I do have children, and I think a lot about how to teach them as they will certainly grapple with even more strained social conditions.

  45. Hi Nate,

    When one is sealed in the temple, it is a three-way ordinance, sealing each party to God, as well as sealing the couple to one another and to their future (or present) children.

    This linkage with God is why the Church is loath to sunder a sealing, even when the couple has broken their relationship.

    Thus an individual who holds to their sealing is still bound into the family of mankind and God’s grace even if they are part of a vast culture of individuals who decide to reject the covenant and associated exaltation/salvation.

    Joseph made the sassy comment (May 1838) that Mormons are the only ones who believe the Bible. By this I think he meant in part that we do believe that baptism is required, while also believing that Christ’s salvation is for all mankind. Of note, Joseph didn’t know in 1838 how all these bits of the Bible could be fulfilled. Just that Mormons did believe in them.

    Years ago I explained to someone that for some portions of the human family, the result will be similar to broadcloth, with many interwoven and strong linkages. In other portions, the result will be like lace.

  46. Meg, I think it’s a nice theory: that our temple sealings are universal, non-sunderable, even for faithless gospel-rejectors. I have never heard this preached, but maybe it’s true. But in the end, the church still does sunder sealings today, even if they are loathe to. I can’t really understand this categorical objection to adoption, when the church does adoption sealings of children today. If adoption is OK today, why won’t it be OK in the millennium, and why wasn’t it OK in the early church? We can all agree that adoption presents certain challenges without having to twist LDS doctrine in a way that makes adoption seem like a bad thing, or like it’s not a legitimate theological principal. Adoption can be both a challenge, and a good thing, just as life itself can be a challenge and a good thing.

    Lucinda, marriage rates are falling among lesser educated classes, but marriage rates are high among higher educated classes and divorce rates are falling. The IVF/adoption crowd belongs to this higher educated class. I’m not sure where you are getting this idea that non-LDS IVF-ers are deadbeat, divorce-prone parents contributing to the decline of marriage. Show me some data that IVF-ers and adopters have below average divorce rates or that they abuse or abandon their children in greater percentages than parents who produced their kids through normal sex. I don’t mean random anecdotes, I mean data which shows that they are collectively WORSE than the average of sex-based parents.

    I think your objection to IVF and adoption is more theoretical than practical. As you say, “it epitomises the divorce of sex, marriage, and reproduction.” But even abstractly, your theory has problems. Lots of other things “epitomise the divorce of sex, marriage, and reproduction” much better than IVF and adoption: abortion, birth control, sex out of wedlock, feminism (as you say), the over-idealism of romantic marriage, modern economic forces, etc. IVF may have been born in this environment and epitomise some of the attributes of modern love and reproduction, but that doesn’t mean it is a contributing factor to the decline of traditional marriage. It seems to me that it is strengthening the bond between reproduction and marriage by allowing more married couples to have children. This at a time when more and more married couples are choosing NOT to have children. And just because IVF and adoption is separated from sex, doesn’t mean that it somehow is divorcing itself from sex. IVF is simply a technological extension for the real sex these couples are having, which, because of infertility, is not working properly, like lasik surgery or cochlear implants.

    Someday, when CRSPR genome editing technology is more advanced, we will have the possibility of designer babies and couples might opt out of natural baby-making altogether to create Bourne Identities. When that day comes, then you may have a point. And even today, it’s probably a good idea to sound the alarm about the potential IVF has for abuse. But I really think we could do this without resorting to the judging infertile couples who, like Rachel and her mandrakes and Sarah and her maidservant, do everything in their power to obey the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.

    Meg said “Someday I expect to learn from God what He would have advised.” Maybe we could start by actually talking with some of these infertile couples and asking them what God has told them, what priesthood blessings they have received, and whether or not the Spirit was present in the room when their IVF baby was born. That might give us a clue about the sorts of things that He might be advising.

  47. Hi Nate,

    You wrote: “I think it’s a nice theory: that our temple sealings are universal, non-sunderable, even for faithless gospel-rejectors.”

    I don’t know what you mean by that sentence. If the individual rejects the gospel and retains this rejection through final judgment, then their covenant is sundered. However if an individual’s spouse rejects the gospel, that doesn’t invalidate the covenant of the faithful party. It would mean that their eternal spouse can’t be the person who has absented themselves, but there is no blessing that will be categorically denied a faithful individual merely because another individual was faithless. However, the specifics of that blessing might be altered by the faithlessness of another party.

    Neither Lucinda nor I said that adoption was not permitted. We have merely pushed back on the assumption that it is a tool that should be used to fulfil adult desires, when by so doing the adopting adult injures the biological parents and the child. I cited particular trends (rehoming, children taken from loving if poor families to be given to adopting parents).

    With respect to IVF, I have cited my daughter and her husband, who came to the philosophical decision that for them it felt wrong to force nature. We are not talking about trading mandrakes for a chance with the husband in a tent. We are talking about technologically forcing gametes that aren’t functioning normally to combine, potentially propagating that weakness to a future generation. In the case of IVF, the female providing the eggs has to undergo unknown risks in addition to the known risks. Emerging study results suggest that IVF children are 25% more likely to suffer from congenital birth defects. Most children born as a result of IVF have not reached an age where they are attempting to reproduce, so statistically significant results of any studies evaluating the fertility of IVF-engendered children are not yet available.

    There are other society ills that are more ethically problematic. But few people run around celebrating the ability to break up with a spouse or medically terminate a pregnancy. People do feel strongly that these things should be legal (while others feel strongly that these things are so wrong that it is worth killing). But I repeat that no one wakes up and jumps for joy because they get to go through a divorce or end a pregnancy.

    Lucinda was talking about the problems that arise when children are acquired or produced primarily to meet the desire of an adult rather than to meet the need of the child. If society was primarily interested in the needs of children, then divorce and various forms of adoption would be more strongly frowned upon. The initial indications that there is significantly higher risk of congenital defects when using IVF would be causing more concern.

    But as a culture, we love babies. We love to be able to have one all our own, even when the only way to get a baby is by forcing that child to accept even greater risks that the children conceived by normally neurotic married heterosexual couples.

    Along the way, our adult desire for a baby adds an extra 1/12 teaspoon to the store of adult entitledness. No individual instance is enough to cause alarm. Given the happiness of the adults involved, it seems a thing that can be safely ignored out of politeness. But as the instances grow in number, the 1/12 teaspoons add up. Lucinda is pointing out that society has been fundamentally changed, to the point where smart people like us aren’t able to coherently formulate the argument, and many are openly enraged that we would even presume to talk about the matter.

    I acknowledge that there may be some who will read this argument and make a decision to halt before resorting to IVF or before pursing an adoption. It does not appear that you are one of these who is open to suasion. And yet you wish to silence us.

    Ironically, your opposition to the argument (so nicely specific, for which I thank you), has led me to validate the statistics and case studies and terrible news stories that support my side of the argument.

    That said, I wish you and your wife every happiness. I will pray that your child is successful born, and that they are amongst the majority who do not suffer any defect.

  48. Thanks Meg. By the way, I don’t wish to silence you, only to persuade. I’ve acknowledged every risk you cite and fully factor it into my decisions: birth defects, possible clinical errors, egg donation risk, the existential crisis a child faces without a known biological parent, the contribution IVF adds to the modern culture of parental possessiveness. I don’t mind that you cite these risks, which are real enough. I only wish you would balance your “cons” with a few of the amazing “pros” that come from IVF and adoption: the fact that adopters and IVF-ers are an above average set of parents with lower divorce rates and greater commitment to their children, the fact that life is worth it even when there are risks, the fact that desire to have children is powerful and natural, the fact that IVF medical assistance is merely an extension of natural sexual relations in the same way that cochular implants are for hearing impaired, etc. When I list these pros along side the cons, for me, there is no question of which path to take. But I acknowledge that others may see things differently and decide it isn’t a good idea. I only hope that they don’t make their decision because they are ONLY looking at the “cons” while being wilfully ignorant of all the “pros.”

  49. After reading the article and many of the comments on the thread, I couldn’t help but feel that Meg and Lucinda were somewhat misunderstood, in great part, due to the emotional response to the topic of adoption.
    I don’t remember which commenter said this, but the commenter said that laws and policies are driven by the people and not the other way around, had something. The laws and policies wouldn’t move in that direction if people weren’t already willing. However, the policies sometimes speed up and justify the behavior. So, interesting chicken or egg thought.

  50. Hi AmyE,

    The problem is not so much that new laws are being created, but that new technologies are enabling behavior for which society hasn’t yet codified a response. The speed of technological possibility has far outstripped the normal ability of society to observe the effect across generations and develop a response based on data.

    Recall the early days of radium, when it was seen as a health additive. Female workers painting radium on clock dials started to suffer from radium poisoning. It wasn’t until many of them had died that it became impossible to cover up the cause.

    By way of analogy, I recall the advent of USB drives, having received one of the very first USB drives as a tchotchke at a conference held by the Office of Naval Research in 2002. It held 16 KB. Yes, kilobytes.

    In only a few years, USB drives had become nearly a daily necessity for transferring data. This was particularly crucial in government environments that dealt with classified information.

    Then two things happened. First, something caused the US Department of Defense to ban USB drives in November 2008. Then the former Private Bradley Manning provided 400,000 documents to Wikileaks in 2010. Though Manning’s initial download was made to CDRW, subsequent transfers did involve the kind of memory used in USB drives.

    Since 2008 it has been prohibited for DoD personnel to use anything resembling USB drives in DoD computers. Even though we were only exposed to USBs for less than a decade, it still irritates us that we can’t use that tool. But the policy has very good reasons, and so we comply. Besides, we like keeping our jobs.

    Getting back to acquiring children using IVF, adoption, and borrowed bits (uterus, sperm, egg), these things fulfill desire, the way USBs fulfilled our desire to transfer data easily. The human cost of these technologies and practices is beginning to emerge (25% increase in birth defects, babies taken from loving families to feed adoption markets, rehoming).

    Recall the new technologies and substances such as thalidomide, radium, USB drives, and Agent Orange. These were eventually determined to be too deleterious for certain applications.

    In the case of technologies and practices that allow humans to acquire children, it may never be possible to put the genie back in the bottle.

    Given that these technologies and practices are almost required for same gender and transgender individuals to become parents, there will be no change to the status quo as long as same gender and transgender behavior and identification are in favor. Therefore those who were alarmed by what Lucinda and I wrote need have no fear. There will be no change in the foreseeable future.

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