My daughter Maren (name has been changed) has contributed much to our family, but perhaps the characteristic I admire most about her is her great empathy for others. As a teenager she attracted many friends because they saw in her someone who would not judge, who would not scorn, and who would listen. Unfortunately, these qualities also attracted some individuals who would later take advantage of her.
Because of this and because of a series of poor decisions she had made, Maren became pregnant not long after graduating from high school. Before she realized she was expecting a baby, she had begun attending an institute class; she recognized something was missing from her life and concluded that a change of friends might be a start to finding wholeness. As she began the institute course of study and as these new friends surrounded her, she commenced a journey that would change and test her beyond anything she had ever experienced.
When Maren discovered she was expecting, she was dismayed to realize that her path to repentance and forgiveness was going to require a great sacrifice. She determined to carry the baby to term and place it for adoption with a worthy couple through LDS Family Services. When she broke the news of her pregnancy to my wife and me, we were extremely saddened by the choices she had made that brought her to this point. Nevertheless, her commitment to place the baby for adoption and her desire to change gave us hope that she might at last come back and partake of the blessings of the gospel.
As Maren worked with LDS Family Services to choose an adoptive family, she scanned through the applicants’ profiles and was instantly drawn to a particular couple. She felt a confirmation of the Holy Ghost that this was the couple who would lovingly raise this baby.
During this time, Maren worked hard at reading her scriptures daily and offering fervent prayers that included her pleas for forgiveness. Finally the day arrived when the baby would be born. Now the time began that would be most difficult for us all and particularly heartrending for Maren.
That day Maren asked me to write a letter that could be given to this child at some future time by his parents, if they so chose. This is some of what I wrote:
“I write this letter not knowing if or when you might read these words. I’m sitting at a table while close by your birth mother is rocking you in her arms. Tomorrow she will lay you in the arms of your adoptive mother and father, to whom you will be sealed in the temple of our God. This will be the hardest thing your birth mother has ever done. I know because I see the love that she has for you. She loves you so much that she is willing to make this sacrifice in order that you might be brought up now by a wonderful couple with the blessings that a temple sealing can bring.”
I added that I was writing the letter to help him understand why his birth mother made the decision she did. I wrote that while my daughter had made some mistakes, the best decision she had made in this situation was to allow him to come into the world and to place him in the care of his adoptive parents.
The letter continued: “This decision was made entirely on her own. ‘Why?’ you might ask. Because she knew in her heart that there were some things that she could not yet give you. She could, of course, provide you with food and shelter. Nevertheless, she could not give you a father worthy to raise you. She could not give you the blessings of the temple covenant, as your parents will be able to do.
“So, while she could have given you love, she loved you enough to give you more. This is the difference between a selfish love and a godly love. …
“I sincerely hope that you appreciate the love of your parents and the love of a birth mother whom I am blessed to know as a daughter. I know that tomorrow will break her heart, realizing that she may not see you again in this earth life. I also know that she has the strength to do so because of the Holy Spirit, which will sustain her, and the knowledge she has of the wonderful couple into whose arms she will place you tomorrow.”
As I finished the letter, I signed it,
“Your Other Grandfather.”
The day after I wrote this letter, we traveled with heavy hearts to the place where we would see this child for possibly the last time in this life. While we waited to meet the adoptive couple—Maren had met them before—we sat in almost total silence. I wondered if Maren had the strength to complete this great sacrifice. I watched her as she gazed into the baby’s eyes; she was almost too choked up to talk. Her mother and I could hardly bear to watch.
Finally it was time for us to walk into the room where the adoptive couple waited. Instantly their eyes were drawn to the baby, and tears began to flow. I felt at peace as I watched them hug Maren. When she placed the baby into the arms of the adoptive mother, my heart went out to Maren, and I couldn’t decide whether to weep for the pain I knew this was causing her or for the joy this sweet couple was feeling. In the end, the Spirit gave great comfort to Maren, my wife, and me. We knew that God had accepted this sacrifice, that this child would be greatly loved, and that this was in accordance with the will of our Father in Heaven.
Since that time, Maren has put her life in order and has entered the temple to be sealed to a worthy young man. Words cannot express my deep gratitude to our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ for the Atonement. I have seen my daughter travel through the depths of despair into the gospel light of hope. I have beheld her great sacrifice. I have felt her intense joy at forgiveness received, and I have watched the peace of the temple ordinances spread across her countenance. Above all, I am grateful for the privilege of being her father.
More on this topic: Alan D. Harrison, “Our Struggle to ‘Be Fruitful,’” Ensign, June 2003, 52–55; “Could I Let My Baby Go?” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 60–62; LDS Family Services, “Adoption and the Unwed Mother,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 63.
For additional information about adoption services, contact LDS Family Services at 800-537-2229 or visit www.ldsfamilyservices.org.