Our adult son has been critical of church leaders. I found I couldn’t listen to it without defending them and became angry at his accusations. I wanted to point out his flaws as he pointed out theirs. Why does he demand perfection of them when he is not perfect? We are all human.

This morning our adult daughter pronounced in a family group text that she is gay. She is a lovely spiritual person who left the Church two years ago.

I am seeking God’s direction in how to respond with love and support to choices my adult children make that I don’t understand. Could you please speak to the matter?


It appears that your children are catching you off guard with their individual life paths. I’m glad you’re seeking God’s direction to help you know how to best respond to them. I know that when we’re filled with His love, our capacity to love others expands in ways we never could have imagined. Let’s talk about how you can respond while staying in relationship with them.

I believe your children are inviting you into their lives as they share their complaints, their feelings, and their developments. It’s natural to miss these openings and, instead, feel threatened when they reveal things to you that are foreign, offensive, and uncertain. Instead of seeing this as a something that will divide and separate you from your children, I encourage you to see this as an opportunity to build a deeper connection to each of them.

In the book of Romans, Paul reminds us that nothing, even serious hardships, can separate us from the love of God:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.[i]

As your children speak openly about their journeys, I encourage you to stay open to their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Let their differences provide reasons to move closer to them instead of providing reasons to build walls. No one is asking you to give up your beliefs as a prerequisite for connection. Everett Dirksen was clear on this when he said, “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”[ii] Perhaps you think of this as your very own family interfaith council where you seek to build bridges and toward common goals.

Remember, your children are living the central purpose of the Plan of Salvation as they choose how they will live their lives. This is the beauty and agony of Father’s perfect plan. We are grateful for the freedom to direct our own lives while we struggle when those we love don’t make similar choices. The Savior, who certainly had the right to redirect every single mortal he encountered on the earth showed us a different way. With most people he listened, was patient, and gave the benefit before he corrected. Of course, as the Law Giver, he taught truth and challenged the prevailing beliefs of his time. His light and influence is in and around every single person on this earth, so we can trust his perfect ability to guide, influence, and direct.

I don’t believe God wants us to feel tortured by anxiety concerning our family members. President Harold B. Lee affirmed this belief in this reassuring statement:

We forget that we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother who are even more concerned, probably, than our earthly father and mother, and that influences from beyond are constantly working to try to help us when we do all we can.[iii]

As you settle into a new way of relating to your children that is absent of fear, anxiety, and defensiveness, you’ll likely create new interactional patterns with them. Perhaps the contentious arguments about Church leaders will turn into opportunities to learn more about priorities that are important to your son. Even if your son feels a need to change your mind, you can advocate for respectful and reciprocal dialogue about things that matter to each other. Doing this without fear and anxiety will bring a different spirit to your interactions.

Use the teachings of the Savior and modern-day prophets to create closeness instead of distance. Build your own faith and trust in God’s ability to parent and teach you and your children as you work to build stronger relationships with each other. Zion isn’t created through promoting sameness. It’s created through surrendering our unique and natural reflexes as we submit to God’s sanctification of our sincere efforts.

We all go through Creation, Fall, and Atonement individually and collectively, so it’s important to not panic when it appears as though things we’ve worked so hard to hold together seem to be coming apart. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory.”[iv] Our personal and family lives often feel unorganized, yet we can have peace as we watch God perfectly gather and organize our family matters.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com  

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About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.

[i] Romans 8:35, 38-39