Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What Advice Would You Give to a Parent Whose Adult Child Is Struggling with Faith?

A friend of mine once asked me for some simple advice on how to deal with an adult child who was struggling with some aspects of the LDS Church.  I am removing the overall discussion details and providing here just the bullet-points I gave her:

1) Love him (actively, in word and deed).

2) Love him (emotionally) for who he is - not just for whom you want him to be.

3) Believe in a more powerful atonement than most members can understand.

4) Don't preach. Bear testimony, when appropriate, but don't preach.  He's heard it enough; he has to figure out now what he believes as an independent adult.

5) Support him as an agent unto himself.

Also, fwiw, "when they are old" might be much longer than most people assume. If we are eternal in nature, time as we measure it truly is irrelevant. 
I would love to hear more advice from anyone who reads this post - and remember, this is an adult child.


Anonymous said...

TRUST the child to be an adult, to figure it out, to make good decisions. And trust that God loves the child and will reach out to him/her.

Anonymous said...

I am 33 years old. 6th generation Mormon, raised in an active house, RM, married in the Temple to a woman with the same background. We no longer believe the Church is what it literally claims to be, for fairly typical reasons (history, archeology, politics, etc). Yet, at the same time we stay and want to continue to enjoy the benefits of Church membership for ourselves and our family. The difficulty we run into are (mostly well-meaning) friends and family who try and force an all-or-nothing approach on us.

For example, we do not pay tithing as we no longer literally believe the Church is what it claims to be and because the Church has zero transparency in finances. This means we don't have TR's, which is a very public matter when family events roll around. We really have no choice that everyone knows we do not have TR's, it cannot be kept private. So, (mostly well meaning) family and friends push and prod and question why we can't go in and express dismay that we cannot. I think this is really ianppropriate and makes it difficult for us to continue on with the Church. When I get pressured like this, I get put in a difficult position. I could explain in detail the historical and political reasons why I do not believe literally, and thus do not pay tithing, and thus do not have a TR. However, it is my experience that raising these topics with literal believers causes contention, makes the literal believer defensive (and sometimes hostile) and potentially strains relationships. So, I usually end up absorbing judgment and scorn without retaliating, and sometimes that is very hard. It is not my desire to upset or cause stress to those who literally believe. If it works for them, I am happy for them. I wish that literal beleivers would afford me and my family the same courtesy.

I like this post though, because it mostly affirms respect for individual agency and choices, a core principle of Mormonims that I still very much believe in. As a non-literal believer I feel that I still have something to offer our community and when I feel respected and loved I feel I can contribute.

One notion that is dangerous is the idea that with enough effort, the person who left or who, like me, no longer literally believes, can be brought back to literal faith. I am open to consider any information given to me, but having examined the Church's history closely, I think it's unlikely that I could ever believe literally again, even though in many ways that would be much easier and happier. For those of you familiar with Plato's Cave, I have left the cave and the old explanations are no longer credible.

So love without condition, respect agency. Find ways to include us in the community of love and service. Even though the Church isn't literally what it claims to be, in my opinion, the concept of Zion - the PURE IN HEART - is still very real to me and a big part of why I stay.

So thanks to the author of this post. It's mostly right and mostly productive.