[quote=jgcase]I most humbly request that only LDS or former LDS please answer these particular questions for me:
What is the LDS attitude toward, and treatment of, the disabled, both officially and practically? Does it matter when and how the person became disabled, i.e., was born that way or was permanently injured in a industrial accident, for example? Does the kind of disability matter (Down Syndrome, or cerebral palsy, or deafness, etc.)? Does the LDS church provide services for the disabled?
I am simply asking these questions out of my own ignorance, not to start a fight. Thank you to all who respond in helping me to understand the LDS religious culture better.
I am a former LDS. I can tell you that the LDS Church runs it’s own social service agencies in every stake (like a Catholic diocese). Also they long designed their chapels for ease of access–I believe that when the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed, the LDS Church hd very few chapels needing to be retrofitted for compliance. Mormon missionaries have often and for a very long time received at least some training in American Sign Language–not EVERY missionary, mind you, but a significant number do have at least a rudimentary knowledge of ASL.
In Mormon theology all human beings pre-existed as spirit sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and Mother. In the premortal existence, after one of our spirit-brothers, Lucifer, rebelled and led one-third of our spirit brothers and sisters in a rebellion–hence becoming Satan and the demons–those of us who remained held a sort of ‘family conference’. Heavenly Father revealed to all of us great many aspects of His plan for us on Earth and the parts we would all play in His plans. We were made aware that hardships and tribulations would occur as a way of strengthening us and teaching us to rely upon our Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost. Many of us were told that we would either be born with handicaps or would suffer inury which would handicap us later in life. We actually used this family conference to ‘choose’ our families–our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, etcetera, and we discussed with one another how we would seek to help each other in the event that one of us knew ourselves destined to suffer some sort of special infirmity or handicaps.
For this reason, Latter-Days Saints SHOULD look upon the handicapped as people whom they freely chose, in the pre-mortal existence, to come into contact with as an opportunity to learn and to grow. They should be kindly and helpful toward them and see the difficulties of the handicap not as a burden but as a blessing and an opportunity to learn and to grow. Of course–LDS vary as greatly as do Catholics or any other group, and not everyone is so patient nor so loving as their Church doctrine should predispose them to be. And, theology aside–some Saints do grow weary or discouraged by such afflictions, in themselves or in those whom they must care for. Some LDS grow neglectful, some may be abusive, and so forth. These are purely human and individual reactions to such situations and the Church would not condone them.
I don’t know the degree to which LDS Family Service helps those with handicaps within the LDS Church. As I understand it, especially outside of Utah and nearby Mormon strongholds, LDS Family Services tends to mainly be a liaison organization which helps Mormons locate other sources of help within their community–LDS/F-S does not itself offer much help, at least not in most places. On the other hand I don’t actually know much about this so mebbe someone else will weigh in with more information. Hope this helps!