The following was originally posted on Mormon Mommy Blogs, by a woman named Adrianne Richards.
Content note: Dead babies. Also, some swearing.
My daughter [...] was lying on her belly when she died. As my husband performed CPR I stood in the corner sobbing, “I’m so sorry. I did this. I did this.”
I've never reared a child or helped out with infant care, but I've heard this is something you are never supposed to do, is let a human infant lay face-down. The thing is, Adrianne knew it too. Here's why she put her own daughter, Laila, in jeopardy:
Laila was [...] unhappy and in pain (she had reflux). When considering how to help her I prayed for guidance and received an answer. The answer was to place my baby on her belly. I knew the risks and I hesitated, ignoring the answer for a few days until again, the answer came, “Put her on her belly.” I placed her on her belly and suddenly sleep came. Laila was happy and rested and I knew it was an answer to my prayer.
Then Laila died.
How could I explain to everyone that I prayed and received an answer that led to the death of my baby? Surely it couldn’t have been an answer from God. But I’ve never doubted it was.
Which means that God killed her baby. At least, that's Adrianne herself believes:
I hear the quiet whispering of the Spirit tell me that Laila’s life was short. I didn’t kill my baby. What I did was make the last few weeks of her life happy, comfortable, and without pain. I don’t know why Laila died the way she did and I still wish at times that she could have died in a way unrelated to my choices. What I do know is that my husband and I have the ultimate parenting partner. We are partners with God, who guides our family and helps us make the choices that are right for our family.
[...] I am free from guilt because I know I made the choice that God wanted me to make. I don’t have to defend my choices when I make them with God.
I don't know the way to handle a human infant who has acid reflux. But I don't think Adrianne's god did, either. And I think that whether this bad advice came from him personally, or was misinterpreted by her, or was made up by Adrianne herself and she just thinks God told her to do it, this is what comes from thinking your god is infallible when he's not. Terrible, terrible tragedy, on both a personal and an institutional level.
Conservative churches are full of examples of this. Look at how they treat gays. Look at the orthodox Mormon backlash against the Ordain Women movement. If God is infallible, and God is in charge of his church, then the way things are now is because God wants them to be, and it doesn't matter if it hurts you. QED.
Surely that's not the same thing as parents killing their babies, though, right? I mean, Mormons are all about family. Surely the Mormon Church leadership wouldn't be okay with something like what Adrianne did!
Don't be too sure. Here's what Silvia Allred, a Mormon women's leader (meaning she is only allowed to lead women) had to say in the worldwide General Conference for October 2010. She was talking about an opposite-sex couple she'd met in Paraguay, where the husband was a local church leader and they and their children had recently been "sealed," or bonded together in an eternal family unit, in a Mormon temple.
At the time, the closest temple was the Buenos Aires Temple in Argentina. The trip from Mistolar required 27 hours one way to reach the temple, and they had gone with their two small children. It was in the middle of a very cold winter, but with much sacrifice they made it to the temple and were sealed together as an eternal family. On the way back, the two babies got very sick and died. They buried them along the way and returned home empty-handed.
They were sad and lonely but amazingly felt comforted and peaceful. They said of the experience: “Our children were sealed to us in the house of the Lord. We know we will have them back with us for all eternity. This knowledge has given us peace and comfort. We have to remain worthy and faithful to the covenants we made in the temple, and then we will be reunited with them.”
Emphasis (and paragraph break) ours.
Here's what Silvia had to say about this tragedy (again, emphasis ours):
How do we increase our faith and hope to be like that of these faithful members from Paraguay?
When you are entitled to receive "personal revelation" from a God who purports to be infallible and omniscient -- but clearly isn't -- bad shit happens. Especially when you are a local church leader and head of a family, who is supposedly entitled to receive said revelation for his family and whole congregation. And has them do what their church leaders tell them to, even if it kills them in the process.
The way I almost killed myself in 2008, after years and years of trying to be "obedient" and feeling like crap for it.
Content note: Personal gnosis about my relationship with Inari. Also swearing.
The goddess I pray to, Inari Ōkami, is not (as far as I know) infallible. I don't think she's ever claimed to be, to me, and I'm not aware of any mythology that purports to make her omniscient like that. Everyone quoted in The Fox and the Jewel seems to agree that she hears all prayers directed to her, and is always understanding and willing to get to know you and what's in your heart on a personal level. But in my experience, that doesn't mean she can or will answer every single prayer, or that she even knows what to do for some of them.
I asked her once why she put me here. Why her fox, a part of her that was broken off into a separate entity, is possessing this human, in this place, right now.
The answer I felt I received was something along the lines of "I thought the video games looked kind of neat."
But then what about all the crap that I've gone through? With gender transitioning, being abandoned by family, dealing with stress and with human bureaucracy? Did all that really make this worth it, especially when she was going to have to live with my memories and experiences herself once I became part of her again?
"It seemed like a good idea at the time ... "
I don't know if she was being self-deprecatory, or what. But looking back on my near-suicide attempt in 2008, and the near-death experience I had where I felt like someone was right next to me -- someone who loved me dearly, and was scared and in shock and didn't know what to say to make things better -- I feel like maybe that's when she realized what she had done. What kind of a situation she'd put me in, and how bad it was, and how wrong it was to have let all this happen to me.
After that, I feel that she had a paw in making things better for me. Helping me move out of my family's house. Helping me meet rev_yurodivy and aliaspseudonym. Helping me find stable work that would let me pay the rent on the place that I live now, right after I acknowledged and started worshiping her and just in time for my previous housing situation (living with a relative) to become unstable.
There have been times when I've prayed desperately for her help, only to have something amazing fall in my lap right afterwards.
But there have also been times that I didn't get anything, not even an inkling of what to do. And if she told me to do something that didn't seem to make sense, or that turned out badly afterwards, I wouldn't assume that it was because she knows more than I do and just can't be bothered to explain herself. Because she is not an abusive parent, and I am not her three-year-old child.
If she wants me to do something, she can explain why. If she does something that hurts me, she has to apologize. If she's a real person, then she has to follow the same rules of kindness and courtesy everyone else does. Because if she didn't, I wouldn't think it was because I was somehow beneath her and undeserving. I would assume -- the way I do for the Mormon god -- that she was a jerk who thought she could do no wrong, and never needed to explain herself even when her actions hurt others.
That's not the kind of goddess that I want to pray to. I don't want to have to make excuses for her, the way I did for my abusive parents and the way many do for their abusive partners. "Oh, sure he did this, but he really loves me ... " Or "I made him do it." Or even "I deserved it."
Is it less satisfying to believe that "God" isn't omnipotent and omniscient? I don't know, you tell me. I just know that the evidence doesn't support the assertion that Adrianne Richards' god is*, any more than Inari is. So if there's a difference between them, it's not that one is an almighty and eternal creator, and the other is foxes and rice.
It's that one of them has a fucking heart.
* It's also possible that her and Silvia's god just likes to kill babies. I don't think that I need to explain why this is worse. Although I have heard Mormons suggest that God deliberately "takes [some] kids home" before they turn eight and become accountable for their sins, which is an endless source of Fridge Horror if you think about the implications.