The family is very distraught as they feel their reputation and standing in the church community are at risk. I can’t even begin to think how such a thing would affect me. It's awful, just awful. No one knows about this not even Sarah’s siblings as the parents want to keep this as quiet as possible and don’t want her poor example to be known and possibly followed by others.
The terrible thing about these situations is not only the sin committed by the persons in question but the fact that a child will not be born in the covenant and will therefore not be sealed to them in the eternities. This is a very unfair situation in which to put a child. Fortunately the Church has put people and programs in place to help unwed parents repent of their sin and build futures for themselves and their baby.
The best option in these cases is for the mother and father of the child to marry and work towards a temple sealing that the child may be sealed in turn to them. This scenario is highly unlikely though as the 24 year old father of the unborn child with whom I met is an atheist who sees little to no point in “getting a piece of paper saying they are married.” He is willing to live with Sarah and raise the baby and feels a fatherly obligation and desire to do so. They claim to be deeply in love and Sarah is struggling with the temptation to live with this man and raise their child together. This is very concerning to both her parents and I. No man who truly loves a woman would do anything to embarrass her family in this way.
According to the counsel given by the First Presidency* “Every effort should be made in helping those who conceive out of wedlock to establish an eternal family relationship (i.e. a temple sealing). When the unwed parents are unwilling to marry, they should be encouraged to place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Social Services. … Unwed parents who do not marry should not be counseled to keep the infant as a condition of repentance or out of an obligation to care for one’s own.
I met with Sarah and we discussed the options frankly. In a loving way I let her know that if she goes and lives with this man out of wedlock she will be excommunicated from the Church and will lose all blessings associated with membership. She will not even be permitted to pay tithing. She seemed very upset by this.
We then discussed the option of her not having a relationship with this man, but keeping and raising the child herself. We read on lds.org that studies show **"that fatherless children are more likely to participate in gangs, commit crimes, start fires, use drugs and attempt suicide". I asked her how she would feel if her child did some of these things such as joining a gang and attempting suicide.
I told her that there was a third option. I asked her if she loved her parents. She confirmed to me that she did. I asked her what she thought this would do to their reputation and standing in the church. She cried as she thought about this. I asked her if she wanted to do the right thing for the baby and through her tears she said that she did.
I then shared the counsel given by the church on the matter ***which is that when a child is conceived out of wedlock and a successful marriage is unlikely the child should be placed for adoption through LDS Family Services so that the child can go to a righteous family. I explained that raising the child with a father who is unwilling to marry her would not be a family that the Lord approves of, though the world may think differently. By giving up the baby for adoption the child will be sealed to a real mother and father in the holy temple. I told her that the First Presidency letter affirms that, “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.”
I explained to her that if she does this the Lord will bless her and her baby and no one in the stake need know about it (her father had a plan to send her away for a few months to a relative in order to keep things discreet).
When I returned a week later she said that her non LDS friends had been advising her to keep the child and raise it with the father whom she loved. The father who is gainfully employed also wants this, but is ultimately leaving the decision within her hands. Just as this article states **"Well-meaning but mostly uninformed friends were showering her with conflicting and confusing advice. They used implications of guilt and responsibility to support unwise and impractical solutions to the situation. It seemed that each adviser was able to recall specific examples to support his or her advice. Most, it seemed to me, had motives of their own which were not properly focused on the two most important questions: What was best for the baby, and what was best for the young woman?"
I offered her a blessing in which the father participated wherein I blessed her to be able to know by the Holy Spirit that the counsel from the First Presidency was from the Lord and that they knew what was best for her and her baby.
I am happy to report that right after the blessing Sarah through tears agreed to follow the counsel given in the blessing and will be giving the baby up for adoption. She will also tell the father that the relationship is over. I told her that after she does these two things she will be forgiven and may partake of the sacrament again.
I have come to appreciate the correctness of the decision made by a 21-year-old woman who followed the prompting of the Holy Ghost and the advice of Church leaders as she made a wise and eternal decision in a difficult situation.