#hearLDSwomen: There Is No Institutional Support for This Common, Uniquely Female Experience
He comforted us by saying he was terribly sorry that our baby had died, and that our baby, according to the doctrine of the church, was without sin, and waiting for us to become worthy enough to be sealed in the temple.
We moved across the country a week later. Our new bishop told us that he’d gotten our records and saw that my husband was a prospective elder. By then we had been married nearly a year, but the bishop could tell from our records that we hadn’t gotten married in the temple, so he asked us if he needed to re-start the repentance process with us and began telling us what we needed to do.
I hesitantly asked if our prior bishop had sent any other information other than whatever “unworthy” flag had been appended to our records. He didn’t know what I was talking about.
I said, “We just had a baby prematurely two weeks ago, and he died. He didn’t tell you that, too?”
He fumbled, but the core message was that since our records showed that our two children—our living son and our dead one—were not born in the covenant, the only thing that mattered was making us worthy.
I asked him for anything else he could tell me about my baby dying. The only answer was “become worthy, go to the temple, and get sealed, or you won’t see your child again.”
It wasn’t until the exclusion policy three years ago that I finally read what Church Handbook of Instructions Volume 1 offered about infant loss: nearly nothing. Nearly nothing. There are pages and pages of regulations about other things in the church, but there is little to no actual, official doctrine about the disposition of miscarried children, stillborn children, or children lost soon after birth.
I have lost five children: one to premature death and four to miscarriage. I can hardly think of a life situation that has impacted my spirit and faith more. And yet this deep, universal human experience is doctrinally and culturally ignored. What I understood from the silence from church is that this is a woman problem that I’m to cope with silently and not in a way that impacts men at church.
This is serious spiritual and doctrinal neglect, and when the most important thing about women is the labor they give instead of the spiritual wrestles they undertake, then we’ve been silenced in a profound way.
Pro tip: Don’t suggest answers that go beyond what we know, and don’t use eternal families as a threat or a weapon. Instead, offer your willingness to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those in need of comfort, even when what hurts is the lack of institutional answers. Relay those questions in interviews with general authorities, and encourage them to pray for answers. Encourage those seeking answers to find them from God.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)