Worried about my child

happe

Today’s question comes from an anonymous subscriber. She wrote:

I have a question for you. How would you suggest one would continue to use the laws you teach when dealing with the loved ones?  For example, a child that isn’t sure they want to serve a mission or a child who is identifying LBGTQ? A child who has left the church?

Do you have any examples of these scenarios that may be helpful? Thank you so much!

I asked this reader if she minded if I allow a few of my friends to weigh in on this, based on their personal experiences. She agreed, so I reached out to them and asked them to share their thoughts on this topic. Here are some of their replies.

Friend #1 said:

First of all, my heart goes out to you if you are dealing with these things. It seems when our children are young, we cannot possibly imagine the varied ways they will use their agency as they grow into adulthood. While I have not experienced your particular concerns, I do have a few children making decisions inconsistent with what we hoped for them. Either way, we are discussing principles rather than circumstances, ultimately.

As I consider all the ways we can have our heartstrings pulled, it seems to me the overarching principle needed is love. Scripture says, on the love of God, ourselves, and our fellow man hang ALL THE LAW and the prophets. That says to me, that anything they have taught, or anything we are commanded to do, ought to be seen and responded to through the lens of love. It seems love can be complicated as parents.

As I have wrestled with teens and young adults over the years (in my mind and heart) and tried to figure out what was best for me to consider in the equation, this is what I keep coming back to. How can I love them better? I don’t claim to be expert at it, and I have my behind closed doors tirades from time to time, but I always go back to getting grounded in love. Beyond love, there are other rare faith principles that apply.

I’ve had to consistently ask myself what is actually true and what meaning am I adding? To keep it generic, when someone I love, could be my child or someone else, makes a decision or takes an action, the fact is, they made a decision or took a specific action. My getting my feelings hurt, or declaring it good or bad, doesn’t necessarily make it so in the grand scheme of eternity. And it’s an opportunity to look within.

I’ve thought so much of Joseph of Egypt these last few weeks. He was a favored son in a favored family watched over by the Lord. And agency ran amok to the detriment of Joseph and his family. But not to the Lord. The Lord used the agency of everyone to bring about His ultimate purposes in saving and elevating Jacob’s family.

His brothers hated him. Thought seriously about murdering him because they were jealous. Threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery. There is plenty there if the story stopped there for Joseph to have thrown in the towel and been bitter. But it didn’t stop there. Potiphar’s wife EVERY SINGLE DAY and yet he remained true. Prison, for years, and yet he remained true. And the results were that the Lord blessed him and he rose to power in every situation. Joseph loved the Lord. He was righteous and ultimately things were for his good.

We see Joseph’s humanity at the treatment of his brothers when they came for help twenty two years later. And when you read closely, you can see there were questions behind Joseph’s actions. Have they forgotten me? Are they glad they got rid of me? Are they sorry? Do they care? Is my father alive? Do they LOVE me? He was testing them, and from the very first word, those brothers communicated, they had a brother and he was not forgotten. Reuben and Judah especially were willing to lay down their lives and the lives of their children to avoid repeating their previous mistakes, and to protect the tender feelings of their father. And when Joseph really saw and recognized that fact, he wept. More than once. We don’t get the inside view, but I can only imagine through all those years of being faithful and being prospered, there must have still been some doubt and leftover pain.

The realization that his brothers were sorry, deeply regretful, and still loved him must have been joyful and devastating at the same time. Why devastating? Time lost. What could have been. What should have been. All those thing we dwell on when things aren’t how we wish they were. We don’t get to know if those things were also part of the healing story.

A mom I know with a college aged daughter called me a few days ago. She was deeply upset about a daughter’s actions. A tattoo. She wanted some compassion. She was disappointed. And she told me how she was going to lay down the law. Before we got off the call, I asked her if I could offer her some coaching. She agreed. I suggested that whatever communications and actions she decided to take, that she do it with an overwhelming amount of concern and love.

Love is a high vibration. When we set any goal, view any situation, try to solve any problem, we will do it ever so much better, if we are in the vibration of love and gratitude. In my own situation, I have had to really look at my children and their hearts. They are good. We live in a time that is more difficult than any other period in history. I cannot imagine how hard it is with all that is aimed at the youth of today. All of that is only made worse when a loving parent begins to side step the love and have conversations that come from struggle, (possibly judgment), pain, and worry. I am not saying that is the case here because I don’t know you well enough. I am saying it to invite you to look.

Where can you see the good? Where can you be grateful? Where can you ask for Unseen Help? Where can you offer your trust and faith as a sacrifice? Unfortunately we don’t get to control the laws. We cannot bend them to our will, no matter how hard we want to at times. I suppose ultimately that is a good thing.

Sometimes rare faith ISN’T the kind of faith that causes things to happen. Sometimes it’s the faith of Joseph. No matter what his brothers, thought, said, did, no matter what anyone else did against him, he chose what was right. He had faith independent of times he must have felt hopeless. He trusted. I think trust is the very hardest thing to give our will over to. We don’t want it to be true that we did all we could and it wasn’t enough. We don’t want to accept agency when it goes against truth. We don’t want to have to love when it so very hard! I really want to get better at trusting like Joseph.

A gentle reminder. I don’t want to cause pain. There a great big gap between our humanity and perfection. I know you know that massive chasm is filled with the mercy and grace of the atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s painful and sometimes beautiful to surrender to His merits. If there’s nothing we can do, He certainly has already done what is needed. I try to fall back on the truth that when it seems like everything is out of my hands, they’re safely in His. On the days that I’m strong, it sure brings me comfort. And we just might be wrong about who He will and won’t save because of what choices.

I hope something I’ve said had been helpful. My prayers are with you. I hope you can find peace.

Friend #2 said:

I have studied with Leslie now for 12 years. … I have 5 children and 3 adorable grandchildren. We’ve had some pretty brutal years at our house, and becoming involved with Rare Faith has made it not only manageable, but joyful.

Leslie shared your question with me, and she asked that I share some of my personal experiences with you.

Your question:  How would you suggest one would continue to use the laws you teach when dealing with the loved ones? For example, a child that isn’t sure they want to go on a mission or a child who is identifying LBGTQ? A child who has left the church?

Do you have any examples of these scenarios that may be helpful?

Here are a few things that happened over here. My oldest child is LGBTQ under the transgender male umbrella. They are non-binary and bi-sexual.

There are other things that were going on at the same time–children who were struggling with anxiety, depression, OCD, rage, PTSD, autistic tendencies, self-harm, suicidal ideation, etc. My husband was in an accident, and we almost lost him last fall. Another daughter was married 4 years ago, had two children, and then was divorced last year.

I don’t know that you need to know all of that, but I want to put things in perspective in relation to the many moving parts we see in a family dynamic even during the hard things.

We are a very religious family. Our oldest has been married for 12 plus years to a man, and “they” (out of respect and to preserve my relationship, I am using the pronoun requested of me) identified as a female at the time of the marriage. They only came out to us a few years ago.

I asked what the implications of that were, and they told me there were none because they were married to a man, and the two of them wanted to stay together. We assumed that was the end of it.

But with time their feelings escalated, and they felt they had learned more self-awareness and self-understanding. In a relatively short amount of time they asked that we use neutral or male pronouns, use a newly-chosen, more masculine name, that we only compliment them in a masculine or gender-neutral way, and that we don’t video call or call via telephone. We have respected that, though it has been very hard. (They live in another country.)

They started posting things on Facebook that felt disparaging about us. They left the Church with their spouse. And it seemed the more we researched and sought understanding, the more they pulled away. Even texting has been off limits now for the last 4 months. We have been very loving and have tried to show understanding, but they have pulled away.

So how have the laws helped?

I can’t change the way my child identifies, and I’ve learned the most important thing (especially without having seen them in years) is how much the relationship matters to us. It means everything, and we miss them dearly.

Here’s the good news. I found wise counsel that has helped us tremendously as I studied and applied the laws:

The Law of Perpetual Transmutation – I choose to believe that God is working with them. I choose to believe everything will work out in the end, that this is a necessary journey leading to our child’s salvation, and that God is in this. I choose to believe our relationship will be healed and that it will all work together for our good. I believe this is coming into our reality, and it has brought me a tremendous amount of peace.

The Law of Cause and Effect – because we know that when we move toward our goals, they take a step toward us, I’ve chosen to keep moving. Any genius ideas that come to my mind to move toward having a strong and loving relationship are acted on as quickly as they come.

Some of the things I’ve done to take a step forward:

  • Prayed for charity
  • Fasted for them
  • Attended the temple
  • Temple prayer roll
  • Read books about LDS LGBTQ (i.e. A Walk in my Shoes, Without the Mask, Listen, Learn, and Love, etc.)
  • Visited with the stake president to try to start a support group for parents of LGBTQ
  • Worked with a therapist
  • Watched many Voices of Hope videos: https://www.northstarlds.org/voh-brent-courtney
  • Spoke about having increased charity in a support group
  • Spoke about our journey and how to be a safe place to other parents

The Law of Relativity – I realize things could be worse. My child could have disowned us, or could have divorced their spouse, or could hate Jesus. (Which they don’t.) I heard about the book, “Educated,” and thought — sheesh … what if our child decided to say mean things about us in a book? (Our oldest is a writer.)

The Law of Rhythm – I choose to believe that, where the last year or so has been especially difficult, our up years are on their way.

The Law of Vibration – I have been very deliberate in keeping this law.
I’ve made sure to stay in a positive, loving, non-judgmental place toward my child because I am certain they could feel the negativity through my vibration.

I am also very aware of any thoughts or feelings based on fear, judgment, worry, etc., because I choose a more positive outcome.

The Law of Polarity – I choose to believe that we have some amazing things in store. With the deep pain we have experienced in relation to this separation from my child, I know we will experience joy as deep as the pain. I look forward to it, and I choose to believe there is a seed for good. I’ve already seen a lot of that. I have been refined through this process. I have so much empathy for others. I am not judgmental. I have become more educated and more understanding. I listen better than ever before, and I have become much closer to my Heavenly Father through this process.

The Law of Gestation –  I choose to believe our relationship will improve, that healing will take place, and our child will feel the depth of our love. I choose to be okay with it if it takes 3 months or 20 years. It just needs to run its course for us to all see this in hindsight and to even have fond memories of this time because of the love and reliance on God that we have experienced.

Those are the laws.

Some of the evidence we’ve seen that we are moving toward realizing our dreams:

  • Our child reached out to us on Easter
  • They sent us an anniversary gift
  • They called me and said, “I’m doing great. I’m volunteering with refugees, and I’m in training for a new job. Thank you for showing me respect by giving me space. I love you very much!”

I hope this helps. Where agency is involved it feels tricky, but it just means the Law of Gestation may need a little longer season of incubation. I’ve had to ask myself, “What is the worst case scenario?” Worst case is that they never come back to the Church, lose their testimony forever, and choose a lower kingdom.

But then I remember the covenants we have made. I believe that when I do what I can (Law of Cause and Effect), God is reaching out toward my child. I can look around and see others I can influence when I can’t influence my child.

Then I ask God to please consecrate it on their behalf. And then I think … if eternal separation was my lot … then I better take advantage of every moment I have with this child here on earth. And right now we aren’t allowed to contact them, but my love, my admiration, and my respect for them grows daily. So I’m at peace. It’s coming. I can feel it.

In our other challenge that is so affected by agency–our daughter who went through the divorce–we also used the laws. The thing we couldn’t change was my son-in-law’s behavior. We wished he had made better decisions. We trusted he would be kind and loving and supportive of our daughter. We hoped he would get help and stick with it. We expected he would build our daughter up, rather than tearing her down. We hoped his heart would be softened and he would be fair in the separation, and later in the divorce. But in each of these circumstances he hasn’t behaved the way we would have desired.

BUT …

We chose to believe it would work out for the best. When he made accusations, was gas-lighting, mis-represented the truth, and pitted his bishop, the marriage counselor, his family, and my daughter’s best friend against her, we chose to see it as “just data” from the Stickman. (Mindset Model – aka The Visual Aid that Changed Everything.)

We decided ahead of time that our only option was to still be disciples of Christ on the other end of the divorce. When he was contentious and mean-spirited and unkind, we chose to forgive and to “keep calm and watch what happens.”

We walked into mediation last year, prepared for it to be the beginning of a long fight. My son-in-law had told us many times that he would fight to the death for custody of their two children.

We prayed for him and his family ahead of time, truly concerned for their well-being. We were completely blown away when the lawyer came in to tell us my son-in-law would settle for minimum visitation and was not going to fight for custody.

This means that instead of 4 months (just for the custody evaluation) before we could sign papers and submit them to the court, the divorce was final in a few days. That was completely unexpected. We still had more mediation to go, but we watched as the lawyer fought the battle. We were calm and kind and believing. It was an exhausting, but truly miraculous day.

I hope these thoughts are helpful. I pray you have the support you need to help you stay in a place of peace throughout your journey. It has made a world of difference to me.

A few resources I recommend that could really help:

Best of luck to you …. You have some complex opportunities, and I have full confidence that the work the Lord is doing with you will be for your good. (Law of Polarity)

If you have any further questions, you are welcome to reach out to me. I’m happy to help.

I’d like to add a few thoughts of my own:

Both of my friends responded with more than I expected, so I wanted to find out how their replies landed. We’ve talked together about these things in the past, and it looks like they’ve come to some newer conclusions than what I even knew.

I think the one thing that we all agree on is that the sooner we as parents can get to a place of peace about our children’s choices, the better chance we have of being the positive influence and place of safety they will look for again sooner or later.

Being at peace with their choices does not mean we necessarily agree with those choices. What it does mean is that we understand what’s in our control and what we should not even attempt to control.

It is finding peace in our proper role in their lives. When we get that right, we WILL feel peace, because the Spirit confirms to us when we’re on the right track. Our reward can peace of mind, even if we continue to see them struggle.

As for using the principles where children are concerned, I think it is wholly acceptable and needed to see them turning out happy, joyful, united with loved ones, and victorious in Christ. Nothing wrong with holding that image with hope. Not to MAKE it happen, but so that WE are not the limiting factor in what the Lord can do to help it happen.

He requires faith. Our faith can meet that requirement. But our part is to hold the vision and take inspired action as we’re prompted, while at the same time being unattached to the timing of the victory.

We convey peace and confidence in our children when we choose to believe they will figure things out one way or another, eventually. My friend’s son chose not to serve a mission. It became the uncomfortable elephant in the room when at first he acknowledged that he should go, but admitted that he never wanted to. My friend’s initial response was “no problem!” because she’d rather he go when he felt ready.

But after some time as there appeared to be no effort to prepare, it became more clear that it was probably never going to happen. That’s what put her in that awkward place where she assumed he felt pressure that she wasn’t trying to send, so it felt like her next inspired step was to tell him, “we want you to know that we’re not expecting you to serve.”

Basically, if he chose to serve, it would bless his life, but they weren’t holding their breath for him to do it for them. He relaxed and said, “I really appreciate that,” and their relationship remained healthy and intact.

There have been a number of experiences that helped her come to peace with it, including the discovery that her own Bishop never served a mission, and his understanding for youth who struggle has been more valuable for that fact than if he had done everything perfectly like he was supposed to. I believe her son will still find his way, and that whatever detours he takes can still work together for his good in the long run.

She has told him many times things like, “I don’t worry about you at all. You’re amazing. You’re going to turn out just fine. You’ll figure things out, I have full confidence in you.” Because that’s what she felt like the spirit was teaching her to say.

It might take him longer than some to find his way to peace of mind and happiness, but he needs to figure it out his way, and she wants him to know that she truly believes everything is going to turn out okay. Children rise to our expectations when we see their potential and exercise patience and trust in the process.

_________

Spending time in the Old Testament has helped me see how God works with families on very long-term timelines. Those chosen families were a mess! But the Lord had a plan for each of them, and those plans were often 40 years or even hundreds of years in the works.

As for an LBGTQ child, I think the same applies. Help them feel safe to talk through their concerns. Don’t overreact. Teach them gentle truths that help them connect with God’s love. I have come to believe – no – I have come to KNOW that God is compassionate and understanding when we are confused, and so I am quite convinced that His heart is very tender for children who struggle with their identity.

I believe His judgment will be very slow for those who are making choices based on falsehoods – about them, about others, or about how life works – that they were unprepared to catch and discern before they took root. I think this issue in our culture today is going to be so much more about how those who don’t struggle learn to be unconditionally loving with those who do, without attempting to bend God’s laws to accommodate variant preferences. It’s a difficult dance, but that is our task.

We may find that those who struggle may realize the benefits of God’s mercy through the Atonement of Jesus Christ more easily than those who “did everything right” but struggle to love others without conditions. This doesn’t change the fact that there are natural consequences for not abiding by His laws (whether or not we know or understand them), and we certainly don’t want our children to suffer. But we have to remember that God is merciful, and we will only be accountable to the laws as far as we understood them and were capable of following them.

Hopefully something here has been helpful. This fireside offers a really powerful perspective that may help as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hY9_bN7EFOc

Warmly, Leslie

After receiving each of our responses, she replied:

I cannot say thank you enough for your words. I’ve read your email multiple times a day since you sent it, trying to take from it whatever speaks to me the most every time. You have brought my momma heart peace.

“His judgment will be very slow for those who are making choices based on lies that they were unable to catch and discern before taking root.” This really resonates with me. I had never thought of this before and it makes sense to me.

I do believe that our children have the gifts and talents to withstand the adversary, putting trust in them is sometimes harder than others.

Last week in sacrament meeting the speaker used an analogy that I felt was meant just for me. He said that when he watches a sporting event that was recorded and he knows his team wins, he can watch it with ease. When his team is down or not playing well he says “I wonder how this is going to work out.”

In that moment my faith became more alive – it was like everything I have learned from you clicked. I could hardly believe my ears. I was filled with peace and excitement all at once. I KNOW that God wins. I don’t have to wonder. And I don’t have to stress when things appear wonky.  I KNOW everything always works out for me. I KNOW what I want is looking for me. I KNOW I can trust that my Heavenly Father knows my kids, knows what they need, and he will deliver it to them at the perfect time.

I also know that what I want is still ok to want. I can still want and imagine and journal and feel my family being eternal. That thought brings me joy. I now feel free to desire that and do my part to create my future without worrying about impinging on their choices. I will never stop wanting my family to be happy and healthy. I will never stop wanting them to have a deep arms meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.

I can still have those sincere desires and allow them their agency, all the while trusting that God has a plan, he has their backs, and they are his.

Again, thank you for responding. Thank you for allowing your friends to respond. I learned from each of you. My heart is full of gratitude.

Hopefully this thread will help others as well.

Resources mentioned in this conversation:

Leslie Householder
Latest posts by Leslie Householder (see all)

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Melody

    I love this discussion! I had my own issues with what felt like same sex attraction in years past. I realized later that it was more of my needing some nurturing from women that I didn’t get as a child. I carried the burden for years and on into my marriage, and when I finally went to the bishop about it and went through the repentance process, I learned what it felt like to have my burdens lifted through the power of the atonement. It was that experience that taught me about the atonement like no other experience could have done for me. My point is this: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may [never make any mistakes? No. That our children may] know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Ne. 25:26) God knew we and our children would make lots of mistakes, but He gave us His Son to pay for them when we repent. We faithful mommas have taught our children about the Savior, and when they are ready, maybe even when they are old, “they will not depart from it.” Our job is to love them and provide a place where they can feel the Spirit, because they may not have any other places where they can feel it. When they come to our home is their opportunity to be reminded that there is somewhere in this world that feels different from what they feel out there. I believe that God’s grace and our staying faithful to our covenants and continuing in love will eventually lead our children home.

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