#hearLDSwomen: There Is No Institutional Support for This Common, Uniquely Female Experience

After my preemie son died, our bishop called us in the hospital.

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.
– Rebecca


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.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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6 Responses

  1. Jan Signore says:

    I am so sorry that you were met with such coldness after a very profound loss. The lack of sensitivity takes my breath away. I also do not believe what you were told, “repent or you will never see your child again” is in line with our doctrine. This breaks my heart.

  2. Ari says:

    You’d think that, for what we pay, we could get better pastoral care. (But it’s a good thing we have that $32 billion in stocks just sitting there, though. *sarcasm*)

  3. Risa says:

    My heart breaks that in the hour you most needed to feel Christ’s love and comforting embrace, your eternal salvation was held hostage by a fumbling bishop trying to guilt you into temple attendance. Mormons are terrible with grief, but this is just egregious.

  4. SoraBird says:

    Rebecca, I am so sorry for your losses and especially heartbroken to hear that you were treated so horrifically. I promise you that in creating those lives and losing them so tragically, you have more more power and authority in the kingdom of God than the men who treated you so poorly–they just don’t realize it. They are too obsessed with numbers games and each person they get into the temple is a point they score with stake leaders, which is the very definition of unrighteous dominion. I learned this when I was a Relief Society president and it sucks! My bishop pushed people to the temple before they were ready, pretending to care deeply about their lives and then dumping them and all their worries in my lap after they were endowed/sealed and he scored his big points because he never really cared about them. It destroyed these members to learn that they had been objects to him–they had been used to advance his ecclesiastical career.

    When I was a seminary teacher I saw similar abuses at the stake level–stake leaders pushed wards to enroll inactive youth into a program they had no intention of attending, then they celebrated the increase in numbers, sent around a celebratory email and patted themselves on the back with “woo hoo–we got our seminary enrollments up by 80 percent! this year” They then had zero disregard for the 60 percent of students whose names were languishing in gradebooks and collecting “F” grades all year long because they never ever showed up for class. Cruel and uncaring men who care about numbers more than people are yet another reason the church deserves either a mass exodus of members or female leadership.

  5. Gretchen says:

    I’m so sorry for your losses. I lost a baby at 3 days old to SIDS and our bishop was wonderful. He shared some really beautiful materials with us, including giving us a copy of the King Follett speech. Learning more of Emma and her losses helped me a lot during that time, as well. The information is definitely there, it just seems like your bishop didn’t know where to look for it.

  6. Allyall says:

    People are so insensitive sometimes. The lack of information is truly disappointing.

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