My daughter left the church about 5 years ago and now lives at home with us. What I have learned from the experience is that while she has her free agency I also have my own free agency to grow and learn as much from this experience as I can possibly glean. I have learned what I could from my mistakes that I made when I was raising her and how to inventory myself so I can be as humble and teachable as I can in not continuing the family dynamic of trying to control, and manipulate her to be who I think she should be. I also try and listen to her feelings and not judge them. Every feeling is okay and if I have a hard time with what she has to say, I take it to prayer and meditation and try and learn from it. I see her slowly softening and sharing more and more of her feelings. She spends more time with me and wants to be around my husband and me more. I spend time every day in earnest prayer for her welfare and feel prompted as to what to say to her when we talk. We now talk every week for a significant portion of time on Saturday nights. I believe Heavenly Father sent her to our home to teach us lessons and growth that in the eternal scheme of things are blessings.
Thank you so much for this inspiring article. It's just what I need to read today as a struggling mother. I appreciate you sharing Brother White's hard experience. I can totally relate, and find hope and comfort in the lines of his honest, heartfelt words.
Thank you is all I can say, but I feel so much more than just those two simple words for the peace I feel after reading this article. May the Lord bless you, Darla, and Brother White.
This is such a great article and such great advice. We do fall into the trap of wanting to control our children for righteousness sake, but then we become like satan. We must find the courage and strength to be like our Father in Heaven who gives us agency and we chose for our selves whose side we are on. We must work on our own spirituality so that our light may shine forth and radiate our Savior love to the world.
I too was heartbroken when my son at age 15 told me that he no longer wanted to go to church. He wanted to be more like his non-member friends and to be able to sleep in and play basketball on Sundays. With a heavy heart I went to church alone that Sunday and for the next 22 months, because my husband is not a member of the church and this was my youngest of four children and our only child left at home. It was just the beginning of many more sad things to come our way. My son started using drugs and staying out every weekend. He didn't want me or my husband to see him, so when he would come home he would go straight to his room. We suffered so much during this time and I prayed that whatever needed to happen would happen to help my son realize that how he was living was not true happiness. Then it happened!! One evening our son went to and activity at school high and was retained by administration and my husband and I were called in to come and get him. He had never before been in trouble at school. He was a Senior and graduation was only 2 weeks away, to make matters worst I worked at the High School that he was graduating from and these were my co-workers that called me in to come and pick up my son. My heart broke as I watched my son suffer the consequences for the choices he had made . We were told that he could no longer come to school and was not permitted on school grounds. We were also told that he would not be walking with his class for graduation. My son had been a good student, he was well liked by his peers and teachers. His football team had won the State Championship that year, and now this, he could not return to his school. It was devastating for him to learn that this was happening to him!! It was a painful process for him. He decided that he would move to Utah with his older brother. It took some time but then it happened 5 months later he returned to church and his now serving a mission! He recently sent me a birthday card and thanked me for being a good example!!! He commented that I have been very blessed to have 2 children married in the temple and 2 return missionary sons and one currently on a mission. He also told me that serving a mission has been the best choice ever and how much he is loving it!!!
This next week I have the privilege of attending Education Week at BYU , if you have never been, I highly recommend it!!! It is the BEST!!!!
When we stop trying to control the behavior of others, we feel an incredible freedom. So many of us carry heavy burdens that are not ours to carry. This is also true in the marriage relationship---our job is NOT to make our spouse's perfect! Our job is to love them, encourage (NOT NAG), and to communicate honestly and kindly. And, if they fall asleep in church, we do not need to be embarrassed!
Thank you for this wonderful example. I too have experienced this situation in my life....It's amazing how the fear of failure will drive us to do things which are against the nature of our Heavenly Father. It's odd now looking back seeing things more clearly that jail was the exact thing that was needed to persuade my daughter to change... and now to think I would have done almost anything to keep her from that is incredibly humbling.
Keeping the faith and trusting in the Lord can be unbearable at times for me. We have never faultered in our church activity or raising our children in as righteous a home as we could. Yet, of our 6 young adult children, 3 are completely inactive from church and of those 3, 1 of them has nothing to do with us at all, 1 of them is gay and has very little to do with us and 1 of them is soon to be marrying a girl who refuses to spend time in our mormon environment. Another child served a mission but now works so much to support his little family that he doesn't have/make time to be truly active in church. And the last child is soon leaving the nest and trying to figure out what she believes....it certainly hasn't helped to have the examples she's had from her older siblings. Another of our children is mentally challenged which of course, though he is perfect, is still very taxing on us. I have prayed and prayed for strength and understanding, not, for control but even for a small miracle or tender mercy somewhere. It feels like this mother's prayers are all in vain. Several years ago we also buried one of our babies and I thought that would be the hardest thing we would ever have to endure....not so. How can the desires of righteous parents for their children be so hard to grant? Especially when we have so many who have strayed. I do appreciate this article and will try yet again to apply it's principles in trusting God and focusing on my own need for repentance and a relationship with Him in spite of how neglected I feel.
I too have walked the road of recognising when a sense of control has been impinging upon the feelings of my children whether they have left the church or not. I am still in a state of grief. Everything has changed in my life since my children left the Church. I am now alone. It is like divorce all over again. I hope one day I will feel the Light with the intensity I once did. It is odd enough being a divorcee at Church, try having no children involved with you in spiritual matters, no scripture reading, no family home evening or prayers, no one sitting with you at church, it is suddenly a strange place to be.
Excellent article. Many good suggestions for a bereft mother of an older son who refuses to join the Church as I did, in midlife; and a younger son who is so alienated from his family that she hasn't seen his face nor heard his voice in 20 years. I'm trying to be a good example. Nobody notices. Sometimes I even wonder, after asking Heavenly father to soften the older one's heart for 20 years, whether I'm on the right spiritual path. If the Church is true, why is the answer still "no?" His children desperately need to be in young men and young women. But the answer is still "no." I'm trying hard to "let go and let God." Again, thanks for the good insights.
This article is great. Might I add that parents should never give up praying and loving their wayward children.
I can tell you from my own personal experience as a rebellious son, that my parents respected my agency and I eventually returned to the church. Many times on my mission as I wrote letters home about the people I loved and my cherished experiences, the still small voice would whisper, " you would not be hear except for the prayers and faith of your parents."
What gratitude I have for faithful parents praying for me and trusting Heavenly Father to put people and experience in my path to bring me to remembrance of what is right and good so I could make my own choice to return.
Years ago through many tears and prayers I tried to understand agency and the difference between control and influence. I studied Doctrine & Covenants 121:34-46 until the pages were worn and fell out. I came to understand that while we see CTR as desirable the means to the end has to be pure. We erroneously teach that Satan had a plan. God had a plan. Satan used his agency to rebel and go for a power grab. "Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;" (see Moses 4:3). When we mess with another's agency we are in rebellion to God and how did that turn out?
Years ago as I struggled to understand agency and influence as opposed to control I studied Doctrine & Covenants 121:34-46 until the edges of the pages were as frayed as my soul and then as answers came the pages fell out of my scriptures and the principles therein became a part of me.
We too often pursue CTR over the true exercise of agency. I take exception with the author saying "God soundly rejected Satan's plan". Satan didn't have a plan - only rebellion and a power grab. God tells us really what happened: "because that Satan rebelled against me and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down." (Moses 4:3) Our agency is God-given and when we seek to control as opposed to influence we are in rebellion to God and unwittingly giving our power to Satan which is just what he wants.
My wife and I were praying to find the way to help our daughter to come back to the church. This morning I made almost the same question to my Heavenly Father, the answer was to wait. I am sitting in my office reading this article, my mind and heart were opened to my Lord's answers. I believe deeply in my heart that here is the answer to our prayers, we must follow the Lord's ways, and better yet, be aligned with my Lord's will.
Thanks for sharing with us this article.
Thank you Lord for thy answers, love and guidance.
@chower.... You were not controlling when it comes to establishing rules within your home and family. Heavenly Father also gives us standards to live by and when we choose not to follow those standards we are not allowed certain blessings or privileges, like going to the temple. You have a responsibility as a parent to provide a safe place for you family from the influences of the outside world. If you have children who want to contaminate that space it is unfair to the others who are needing that sanctuary. I would continue to uphold those rules if they feel they need to break them so they can be in control I would say that is a very unfair arrangement. There are plenty of places in the world to live like the world we have very few places left to consider holy. The home is one of them! Fortify and protect it!!!
many times the children do not know what direction to go even though they know the basic truth. Parents need to guide them through these difficult times in a loving way.
Reading this article, I can't help but think that if some parents were not so controlling, maybe their kids wouldn't have left the Church. A few parents are so strict and demanding about petty little things like no TV on Sundays or no Coke etc., that kids find ways to rebel and do what they want on their own. They swear that when they get out of the house they don't want anything to do with the Church b/c they see it as the source of all the things they grow to despise.
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with saying, "These are the rules of the house (no drugs, no booze, no sex, etc.); if you want to live here, you must obey them. If you want to live by your own rules, you are free to get your own place, get a job, and pay the rent and for anything else you want." There is no control, no manipulation. If you have taught them the gospel, you have done your responsibility, their sins are on their own heads.
Thank you for this article. As the parent of two adult children, I have had to step back and not try to control what they do, and to keep my mouth shut as needed. The result of this has been the blessing of healthy relationships with both my son and my daughter. They know I love and accept them even though I do not agree with some of their choices.
The word "radiate" struck me. Last year I applied it to social justice work: "I am a peace activist who does not protest or demonstrate. It is more inviting to radiate." These family principles also apply to politics!
How old was Jared when the battles started? I struggle because I have son, not headed on a truly destructive path, but a path away from the church, who is only 14 years old. I simply want him to come to church with us a family until he is old enough to make his own decisions. I think that age is 18. But he pushes back and says I'm trying to control him.
As a convert to the church at 18, I see how much I missed by not being a part of the youth programs of the church. Now that I have sons that are in the youth programs of the church, I want them to get exposure to the best things they can (spiritually) in their lives. They can't get spiritually fed staying at home or avoiding church activities. I hope that even if he decides at 18 that he doesn't want to be a part of the church, he will have had the foundation of attending that may serve him in latter years.
I honestly think it's a teenage rebellion thing, but I realize I may be pushing too hard. He certainly thinks so! But how do I balance being a good and wise parent versus allowing a 14 year old to choose to pull away from the church?
I'm also worried about the impact his actions are having on his older brother and younger sister. If they see us "caving in" and letting our 14 year old no longer go to church, what defense do I have when my 7 year decides she doesn't want to be baptized next year because of her older brother's example?
These are the things I struggle with. I'd love others perspectives.
This is a great story--we are all in the church learning to use grace better, I think. Both in receiving it and giving it to others.
One quibble, though. It is not true that all trials are tailor made for us. Some of them probably are, but many of our trials are the result not of God's will for us, but merely sad results of living in a fallen world, or are the result of actions of other humans. God can make good things come of all of these circumstances if we turn to him, but he does NOT orchestrate all the hard things that happen to us.
If it were the case that our trials are tailor made by God, we would have no business trying to ease or remove the trials of others--because we would be interfering with God's will for that person to struggle. Relinquishing the desire to control others is good (as the story relates so well), but relinquishing the desire to help them and ease their burdens is not. And the pendulum swinging away from "trying to control others to make their lives easier" can swing too far to the other side if we believe that all hard things in life are tailor-made for us by God, and that other side is "I'm not going to help because God designed this trial for you."
Great reminder. I too tried to control my son and his addiction. I had a friend tell me that if I let go, God will step in and I will see miracles happen. Also, with respect of my agency, Heavenly Father would allow me to choice my ways, until I decided to choose His ways. It seemed impossible and unimaginable that I should step out of the way. But at the end of an exhausting fearful day I realized that as my son struggled I was far from the Spirit, filled with anger, despair and hopelessness. I knelt in prayer, telling Heavenly Father I will no longer use my ways over His ways. In doing so I began to see how my son and I were both on journeys, that in my efforts to control I was blind to how I too need to be refined in the furnace of affliction. This realization made me more compassionate with my son and has made me receptive to the learning that I need to do to return to my father in heaven and, miracles have happened.
I have a son who, he and his wife ( also raised in the church) have not only left the church but claim to be Atheist. He had always been defensive and often very offensive toward me with everything. When I would call him he would go into a tirade about the way I raised him or about other things that he imagined I had done. Such as talking to neighbors or ward members about him. He is, even now way off the charts with his ADHD. My understanding is that they often can't tell fact from fiction.
I had been so concerned and it got so that I hated to call because I never knew if he was going to tear into me.
I knelt down and prayed and asked Heavenly Father what I could say to him. I wasn't sure what I was going to say but I called and then Out of my mouth comes. "Look, can't we just say, I won't try to convince you that you're wrong and you don't try to convince me that I"m wrong and just be friends? His response was, "You can't do that" I told him that I would like the opportunity to try. Since that point our relationship has opened up and been sooo much more civil. I no longer fear speaking to him and he has been much more in touch with his sisters and wanting to be involved in what is going on in the family. He lives several states away so we don't see him often but I'm sure that when the time is right he and his wife will return to the church.
Thanks again Darla... you always have sweet words for me...
I needed to hear this.
Amazing article! As a mother who's been through a similar process I know how important is to understand and yield to God's individual plan of Salvation for each one of us, even our children who have gone astray. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story.
I am going to print and study this article as well as considering my prayers. It isn't a new concept, but one I certainly need to work more on. It seems a control battle rages with one of our adult children who feels I am trying to control her. She is a successful artist but has difficult relationships with her family members and others too. She feels I try to control her by having standards at our house like no cursing and profanity, no sleeping with unmarried lovers in our house (gay or straight), no bringing alcohol over for gatherings, etc.
I realize I am trying to control what happens in our home and always have been. Like Brother White, I've always lost the battle. If I had somehow been "better" at loving maybe she would respect us enough to respect our standards. Her brother asked her why she would want to use profanity in our home anyway and her answer was "to not be controlled".
I carefully choose what I watch on TV, read, movies, and even which events I will attend based on values and standards I hold dear, so it seems weird to have this ongoing conflict in our home. Thanks for much to think and pray about.
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