In a letter dated 15 June 1998, the First Presidency reiterated instruction regarding unwed pregnancy given in earlier letters to bishops and stake presidents. This most recent letter states:
“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by parents who provide love, support, and all the blessings of the gospel.
“Every effort should be made in helping those who conceive out of wedlock to establish an eternal family relationship. When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely, unwed parents should be encouraged to place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS [Family] Services” (“Policies and Announcements,” Ensign, Apr. 1999, 80).
When the decision is made to place an infant for adoption, the infant is not the only one who benefits. Young women who choose adoption are more likely to complete high school and go on to higher education. They are more likely to be employed and less likely to live in poverty or receive public assistance. They are also less likely to repeat out-of-wedlock pregnancy (see Kristin A. Moore and others, Adolescent Sex, Contraception, and Childbearing: A Review of Recent Research ; see also Steven D. McLaughlin and others, “Do Adolescents Who Relinquish Their Children Fare Better or Worse Than Those Who Raise Them?” Family Planning Perspectives, Jan.–Feb. 1988, 25–32).
In most cases, teenage unwed fathers are absent from the lives of their children. One noted sociologist cites a number of studies that suggest children who grow up without their fathers are three times more likely to have a child out of wedlock, twice as likely to drop out of high school, and two to three times as likely to have emotional or behavioral problems, and they often become the poorest of the poor (see David Popenoe, Life without Father ).
Since the early 1920s the Church has offered counseling and help with adoptive placement to Latter-day Saint young women who become pregnant out of wedlock. Today there are 59 LDS Family Services offices throughout the United States and Canada, two offices in Australia, and offices in England, New Zealand, and Japan that provide these and a wide variety of other services.
LDS Family Services provides individual counseling to pregnant, unmarried young women to help them restore their hopes and plans for the future. Young women may also wish to participate in group meetings with others in similar situations and in counseling sessions with family members. Some birth mothers request assistance in arranging medical care and temporary housing during the pregnancy. They may also help select the adoptive couple for their baby. All of these services are provided at no cost, and a bishop’s referral is not required.
LDS Family Services also sponsors an Internet site and free crisis telephone service to women pregnant out of wedlock. Anyone may visit the Web site at www.itsaboutlove.org or call 1-800-537-2229 for information or assistance. Volunteers are available by phone 24 hours a day year-round to answer questions and refer those who desire more information to the agency nearest them.
The decision to place an infant for adoption can be a wrenching one, yet it is an act of selflessness and profound love. The First Presidency letter affirms, “Placing the infant for adoption enables unwed parents to do what is best for the child and enhances the prospect for the blessings of the gospel in the lives of all concerned” (Ensign, Apr. 1999, 80).
“Marriage is the more honorable thing. This means facing up to responsibility. It means giving the child a name, with parents who together can nurture, protect, and love.
“When marriage is not possible, experience has shown that adoption, difficult though this may be for the young mother, may afford a greater opportunity for the child to live a life of happiness. Wise and experienced professional counselors and prayerful bishops can assist in these circumstances.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Save the Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 53.